The saying “Virtue is its own reward,” is often misunderstood by some people as signifying that there is no reward for righteous deeds; they are wrong. For our purpose, it is essential to define and identify our chosen operative meaning of “reward.” We maintain and insist that the rewards are inestimably great.
The chief ingredient in all self-evaluation is one’s own private perception of self. At some point in life (usually, later years) intelligent, thoughtful people feel self-consciously compelled to examine the important ingredients of their personal identity and perceived worth.
In the course of each of our ongoing, private conversations with ourselves, we seek insight into an accurate measure of our self-image which, in main part, consists in the recollection of our past accomplishments and behavior. In these accountings we audit our recollection and assign the category of asset to our acts of rectitude and charity, and liability to wrongful or selfish behavior. The salient fact is that this record is entirely internal. Kind acts performed for which no material or visible reward is expected or received are the jewels in the crown of self-esteem. Willing assistance to the needy, public support of worthy causes, consistent maintenance of right thinking belief systems and the like have the predictable reward of a satisfactory self- evaluation.
In the category of charitable behavior, most commendable of all is the act of the anonymous giver, who by the way, is unknown by everyone except (to our point) himself.
The expression “Charity begins at home,” does not mandate that it should end at home. One’s tolerance and understanding are essential ingredients in a peaceful and fulfilling home scene, but should extend, as well, to all society.
Our children should be raised in a context in which there is no system of rewards for good acts and punishments for bad; morality or mischief should not vary with parental observation. Where possible, our children should be guided and instructed in such a way that their innate sense of personal identity and ego would reject wrongdoing and practice kindness and right action, even when alone.
By way of illustration, if A were to steal B’s wristwatch, thereafter feel remorse and return the watch to B with an apology, and B readily accepts the apology and forgives A , A still has the painful problem of the self – assessment of his own character, as to having committed the theft in the first place.
We all possess an internal “bank account” in which the balance of our deeds is computed. Acts which are deemed commendable add to the balance; selfish or mean- spirited acts operate as withdrawals. This figurative bankbook balance is our source for the reckoning of our feelings of personal virtue and self- worth.