Since hearing this in a homily it manifested into a maxim of sorts. When I have a moral decision to make and my lack of virtue is apparent it comes in handy. Choosing the good comes easily when you have the virtue. You don’t have to think about it, you just do it. It is a skill. When virtue is lacking you may start to negotiate internally. You wane or waver over the moral choice.
This is where the maxim comes in. I remind myself that it is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. It has helped a lot because when we lack virtue we are going to suffer in some way depending on our choice. When that virtue gets built up we can choose the good without feeling it as suffering or loss on our part. This concept takes a little getting used to. Below I toss off two examples from my own life to clarify.
Someone needs me but I’m busy.
I assume this happens to most of us countless times every day. Or I’ll give a variation. Someone needs me but I’m relaxing and quite comfortable at the moment. Is it better to suffer for doing good or for doing evil? In choosing the good I will suffer because helping someone at this moment will interrupt what I am doing, delay the accomplishment of some task, or cause me to lose out on the enjoyment of relaxing and being comfortable.
Or is it better to suffer for doing evil? I can delay or not even bother to help this person in need (who in my case is most likely a family member and a young one at that) and choose my will, my agenda, my comfort, my time. I can weaken the virtue of justice (what I owe my neighbor) and reinforce the me first culture I am living in.
Enter the maxim, “Okay Lord, it is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil, I’m up and moving to help.”
There is something yummy and unhealthy to consume.
I already decided I’ve eaten the right amount but another serving, or just a few more bites are appealing to my stomach right now.
Is it better to suffer for doing good or for doing evil? By choosing the good and avoiding gluttony I will personally suffer by missing out on the taste of this donut. And if I don’t eat it now someone else will get it. Or I may suffer minute feelings of hunger later if I don’t take these extra bites of dinner now.
Or is better to suffer for doing evil? I can eat that something yummy and take those extra few bites at the expense of my health. Even worse, at the expense of weakening the virtue of temperance and strengthening the vice of gluttony.
Enter the maxim, “Okay Lord, it is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil, I’m saying no to my stomach.”
Wrapping it up
Hopefully these two short examples illustrate the concept well enough. We face countless moral choices everyday: A member of the opposite sex walks by. Well I’m not even going to look as I remind myself, it is better to suffer for doing good than it is for doing evil. I’m tempted to share a story about someone that would damage their reputation in order to fit into a social situation. Instead I’ll sit quietly and say nothing as I remind myself, it is better to suffer for doing good than it is for doing evil.
This is a good way to think objectively about the truth of a moral choice and its consequences. When we see it in the light of God’s truth we can quickly choose the good and accept the loss or suffering that goes with it. I like knowing that once you build up the virtue you don’t need to say the maxim for that choice anymore. It becomes automatic and you realize choosing the good brings joy and freedom.