Spirituality for Today – February 2011 – Volume 15, Issue 7

Editorial – Idealism

By Rev. Raymond Petrucci

Some months ago, a consumer advocate was asked by a television news reporter if his quest to make a major corporation change unfair policies marked him as idealistic. He replied, "I hope that I would be nothing but that." In an imperfect world, the pursuit of perfection is an ideal. Is it foolish to think idealistically? We are attracted by slogans such as: Be the best that you can be? Pursue excellence! Aim high! If you can dream it, you can be it. From childhood, parents have encouraged their children to do the best they can. The belief that we can realize our ideals has been a long standing part of American culture. Throughout its history, the core of American experience has emphasized and celebrated individualism, inventiveness, risk taking, and other characteristics fostering an idealistic belief in one's potential. Christianity, itself, holds up moral standards and spiritual goals that most would consider impossible to reach. Someone once said, "Ideals are like the stars – we never reach them, but li the mariners of the sea we chart our course by them." Jesus taught us not only the principles to follow, but also how essential it is to make those principles real. How do we cope with realistic human weaknesses in contrast to our idealistic spiritual goals?

A black and white photo of Henry David ThoreauHenry David Thoreau

Christians live under great pressure to manifest the teachings of Christ in all things and at all times. Exemplary conduct on the part of Christians never seems to win praise on the part of others, but failure to live up to those teachings never wants to elicit severe criticism. In striving to live a Christian life, the individual tends to miss the mark and suffers blows - the wounded warrior - in the battle against sin. Through repentance, forgiveness, and reassurance, the Christian is raised up to meet the enemy again. Out of the struggle, one can discover truths about oneself and can develop new and improved tactics to overcome the obstacles before one's ideal goals. In addition, one can grow in the knowledge and skill necessary to facilitate the application of the virtues and graces in one's personality. Good advice is contained in these words of Henry David Thoreau, "If we have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them." People are vulnerable to their old bad habits. They should never cease to be aware of their presence. This fact ought not to deter one's resolve. Perseverance, slow and steady, in the effort to reach ideals, most often will strengthen the character and bolster the will. What a glorious feeling it is when a person recognizes that he or she has attained considerable mastery over the attitude and conduct of the person he or she presents to the world each day.

The highest flights of charity, devotion, trust, patience, bravery to which the wings of human nature have spread themselves, have been flown for religious ideals.

- William James

I cannot speak for any other religion, its dogmas or its ideals. The ideals placed before the mind and heart of the Christian man and woman are within my competence. I dare say that the greatest portion of what has lifted mankind to heights of goodness, beauty, and love has arisen from the strivings of truly Christian people toward the ideals given by Jesus Christ. The poet Robert Browning wrote, "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?" Let us improve the real by seeking the ideal.