Extraordinary Ways To Maintain Your Virtue

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Being virtuous is easier said than done

Throughout history, purity as a virtue was about chastity, or the practice of refraining from premarital and extramarital sex. But then (and now), being chaste was easier said than done. Good intentions give way to physical desires. What about other virtuous behavior though—including beauty, cleanliness, and honesty? Is it just as hard to be virtuous in these ways, too? What lengths will we go to practice virtue?

Given human nature, some extraordinary devices and rituals have been invented to thwart licentious behavior. Absurd or admirable? It’s all in the eye of the beholder or the belt wearer.

Chastity belt

In the Middle Ages, men supposedly outfitted their wives and daughters with chastity belts to dissuade them from sexual temptations. This device, also called metal underwear, was an iron item of clothing with a padlock designed to prevent sex. Scholars now say these impractical and painful devices were rarely, if ever, used . . . though there are a lot of physical examples in museums and illustrations in books. They were most likely the fantasies of sex-obsessed men, instead.

However, chastity belts have made a comeback . . . not to stop women from having sex, though. Comedians often use these absurd devices in their stand-up or taped skits. What's more ridiculous than an ancient sex-prevention device, really?

Cilice

A cilice, or sackcloth, is "a garment made of coarse cloth or animal hair worn close to the skin." For this reason, it’s also called a hair shirt. It was used by religious men of Christian, Jewish, and other faiths as a self-imposed way to irritate the skin to repent or atone for sins.

The word cilice comes from the Latin cilicium, a covering made of goat’s hair from Cilicia, a Roman province in South-East Asia Minor. Cilices gained recognition from Dan Brown’s best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code. The albino Catholic monk wears a spiked chain cilice around his thigh. The fictional character was a member of Opus Dei, a real-life religious organization that said it never condoned painful practices like this. Sounds like a hairy topic.

Purity ring

A purity ring, also called an abstinence ring, is worn as a sign of chastity. The Christian practice began in the 1990s when the Bush administration began to promote abstinence for young people. Single teens and adults wear the ring on either hand and on any finger when they make a commitment to remain sexually pure until marriage. Even celebrities took part in the fad: Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, and Jessica Simpson are among those who once wore purity rings.

Similarly, a promise ring is given by a boyfriend to his girlfriend when they want to commit to each other but aren’t ready to get engaged. Like a purity ring, a promise ring also comes with the assumption that the two lovebirds will wait until their wedding night before they have sex.

Purity ball

A purity ball is a religious ceremony in which fathers and daughters dress up in formal attire and share an evening of dinner and dancing. At the end of the evening, the girls vow to abstain from sex until marriage, and the fathers pledge to protect their young daughters’ purity of body, mind, and soul.

The first purity ball was organized in 1998 by Randy and Lisa Wilson, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for his five daughters. Girls as young as 10 and as old as 25 have attended purity balls. Seems quite invasive for a father to be involved in his 25-year-old daughter's sex life, no?

Liposuction

Beauty is not a superficial concept . . . hold on, let us explain. Plato considered beauty to be the Idea (Form) above all other Ideas. And, Aristotle wrote in Nicomachean Ethics that “Virtue aims at the beautiful.” So, as a virtue, beauty can mean both the appealing look of a person and the inner beauty of someone's personality and soul.

However, it's much easier to create devices to help us achieve that looks-type of beauty (than beautifying our soul). Here’s to mani/pedis, facials, waxing, hair coloring, and other beauty treatments that make us feel good about ourselves. But, let's not forget the extraordinary, extreme, and expensive lengths we go to look slim and trim, including freezing fat and liposuction. Beauty is pain?

Robot vacuum

The idiom cleanliness is next to godliness means that keeping clean is a sign of spiritual purity or goodness. The phrase was first recorded in a 1778 sermon by John Wesley, an English preacher who founded Methodism, but the concept dates back to biblical times. Benjamin Franklin also considered cleanliness a virtue. He wrote: “Tolerate no Uncleanness in Body, Cloaths or Habitation.”

Today, it’s easy to take this virtue to heart, even for those of us who dislike cleaning (and we count ourselves among you). It’s worth every penny to have an adorable personal robot pick up after the baby, the dog, your cube-mate. One of the easiest virtues to maintain (in these high-tech days) in our eyes.

Lie detector

Honesty is the best policy, right? But, sometimes honesty is a hard one to maintain. In comes the lie detector. Polygraphs have long been used by law enforcement to determine whether suspects are telling the truth. The machine can detect and record changes in physical characteristics, such as blood pressure and respiration, that occur when someone gives false answers to questions.

Of course, it’s not only criminals who tell lies. Wondering if your new boyfriend is really who he says he is? Did your wife really get together with the girls last night? Social media and smart technology may be the newest devices for lie detection. Best to embrace this virtue, especially when in a relationship, because it's hard to tell a convincing lie these days.

"Swipe right"

Some say love is the greatest virtue of all. But, how do you find someone worthy of your unconditional love? “Swipe right,” of course.

The term was coined by the Tinder dating app to indicate someone you find attractive—just move your finger from left to right across a touchscreen to show your approval. And, in the quest for true love, the benefit of online dating is that you can meet tons of people—and find your soulmate among them. The average unmarried American spent $1,596 on their dating life in 2016, according to a Match.com survey. That includes dating site memberships, bar tabs, haircuts, manicures, new date outfits, entrance fees, and money spent on matchmakers.

Seems like some of the luxuries we created to maintain our virtue of beauty also apply to the virtue of love, too.

Jury duty

Do you hate getting a jury notice in the mail? Of course, serving jury duty can be boring and inconvenient. But, next time you receive that pesky notice, remember that justice is a virtue, and jury duty gives us the opportunity to stand up for truth and fairness.

In Plato’s book Republic, the philosopher treats justice as an overarching virtue of both individuals and societies. And, justice is one of the four cardinal virtues in classical European philosophy and Roman Catholicism, too. Serving jury duty is a small act of citizenship. It’s extraordinary that we have this opportunity to support our democracy and to practice maintaining yet another virtue.