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Fruit of the Vine

by Jun 14, 2024

“Endless wonder unlocks an innate sense of indebtedness. Within our awe we only know that all we own we owe.” –Abraham Heschel

As future naturopathic doctors who treat the whole person, it is important to remember this includes one’s character and sense of meaning in life. To this regard, I have been listening to a series on the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and self-control.

It is generally accepted across all time and cultures that these are desirable facets of upright character. So how does one cultivate them? The answer, according to ancient wisdom, is more paradoxical than meets the eye.

First, what is the initial reaction? For most (certainly myself) it seems logical that the way to achieve these attributes would simply be by obeying the laws of moral conduct, by my garnering the willpower to be generous, patient, loyal, kind, disciplined and ‘do the right thing,’ even when I don’t feel like it.

Sounds valid. I think we all do this to some extent every day of our lives. Does it work? For me it works sometimes, but more often I find myself giving into impatience, short-term gratification and laziness.

Perhaps this means I don’t have enough willpower. While that is certainly true, I am not necessarily unique in this regard. At some point we all reach the limits of our determination.

Why is my resolve to follow good moral conduct not enough to fully do so? The answer lies not in my lack of trying, but in the deeper root of my core motivation.

One must turn inward and ask, am I expressing this commendable attribute of character to look good in a public setting, or so I can rest assured that I am a good person? Is it to build a positive reputation for myself on social media, or jumpstart my career? Is it to follow a certain law so that I can attain a reward in a religious context? Is it in attempt to gain the affection of a potential friend or romantic partner so that I can feel worthy of their love?

According to ancient text, all of these underlying reasons are both selfish and futile. If any of them are the core motivation for doing good, one might succeed for a while, but will inevitably fall short of truly cultivating an upright character.

So, what is the answer? The answer is rooted in the act of surrender towards a sense of awareness and gratitude for all that’s already been given to each of us. In short, it calls for a complete reorientation of the heart.

The answer demands leaving behind a heart that strives to ‘muscle out’ good moral conduct for the sake of accumulating rewards for oneself later down the road, and instead surrendering to a sense of radical awareness and gratitude for all that has been given – our bodies, our talents, our time, our unique challenges that serve as personal invitations to endure and grow.

Therein lies the paradox. The facets of upright character will never be truly realized if the motivation for doing so is selfish gain, but only as the inadvertent byproduct of praise for the gift of life we have been freely given. And once a heart reorients to the latter, the willpower to sow goodness comes naturally and abundantly.

By surrendering to a sense of wonder, we find an endless capacity to express gratitude via the actions of our lives. It fuels a joy that cannot be dimmed and is the beginning of all that is lasting.

For more information about NUHS’ Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine program, click here.

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About the Author

Leah Gusching

Leah Gusching

Greetings! I am a student of natural medicine because I enjoy the beauty reflected in the human body and spirit. I believe the best medicine is the gift of grace that, once received, heals the posture of the heart. To relax, I like talking with my husband, reading books, and swimming in the ocean when available. Please feel free to reach out!

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