Is Obedience the Mother of All Virtue?
Saint Augustinesaid, “Obedience is in a way the mother of all virtue.” The primarybiological function of a female is to give birth. Does obedience give birth tovirtues? When I was six, I obediently emptied the dishwasher every night.I was bored. I hated it. I was furious at Mom and Dad. Are boredom, hatred andfury virtues? When I was eight, I desperately wanted a Ballerina Barbiefor Christmas. Uncle Jim was mean and rude and hated kids. Every night for a weekbefore Christmas I obediently gave him an “affectionate” hug and kiss.I got my Ballerina Barbie. Are greed, manipulation and being a phony virtuous? When I was 12, I had a wild crush on Jonathon Cook. We went out for threedays. All my friends thought he was a dork, so I broke up with him even though Ireally liked him. Was it virtuous to deny my feelings for Jonathon and obedientlygive in to my friends? When I was 15, my two older brothers and my sistermoved out of the house and I found myself with lots of time to think. I realizedthat obedience for all the wrong reasons was not making me happy. I was in pain.Pain is associated with birth. They say adolescence is the time when you leaveyour childhood behind and a woman is born. When I was 16, I hung outwith the popular girls. Ashley got all her clothes from Express and drove a BMW.Jessica wore only Wet Seal and drove a Mercedes. They were cool. One day lastspring, Mary came to school wearing purple spandex and cowboy boots. She was notcool. Jessica and Ashley made fun of her in front of our entire homeroom. I feltMary’s embarrassment. I told Jessica and Ashley to stop, not caring what theythought. I didn’t care if they didn’t like me anymore. I didn’t care if theydidn’t want to be my friends. And I felt good. Maybe obedience doesn’talways give birth to virtue right away. Maybe obedience for all the wrong reasonsgives birth to pain and pain gives birth to self-discovery and self-discoverygives birth to the right kind of obedience for the right reasons and the rightkind of obedience gives birth to virtue. Saint Augustine also said,”Love and do what you like.” As a woman, I understand that Ihave a free will and obedience is my choice. As a woman, I understandthat it is more important to obey my inner voice and my own sense of right andwrong than to obey someone else’s list of rules or to conform to their ideasabout who I should be or how I should behave. As a woman, I understandthat the only motivation for obedience that will lead me to virtue is love. T. S. Elliot once said, “We shall not cease from exploration, andthe end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know thatplace for the first time.” Last night, I emptied the dishwasher.