I am not a virtuous man. Virtue is the habitual disposition to choose good. As much as I would like to be virtuous, the sad fact remains that too often, choosing the good requires a conscious effort of the will on my part. If I were virtuous, I wouldn't have to think about it; it would be a habit.
For example, if I'm flipping through the television channels, I might involuntarily pause on a channel showing a Baywatch beach scene. I have to make an effort to click past such channels. That's why we've programmed out the channels that are most likely to show such content.
I have another example, but it requires a little background.
About six months ago, my wife was given the opportunity to purchase up to three magazine subscriptions at the discounted rate of $2 for a full year. We looked over the magazines on offer and selected a couple of home improvement and/or design magazines and one sports magazine.
Neither one of us really follows sports that closely, so why did we pick a sports magazine? I picked it to have something to talk to other men about. Too often, I find myself in the company of other men who only want to talk about sports, when my interests in conversation tend more toward religion, politics (both of which are allegedly taboo in polite company), and pop culture (my shallow side). I don't follow sports too closely because it seems that every time I start rooting for a particular team, all I'm doing is setting myself up for disappointment. I cannot bear to invest myself emotionally in a team when I have no direct control over the outcome of the contests.
So, when the conversation inevitably turns to sports, I'm left standing mute. I don't know which teams are having good years, and I don't know any of the players. The subscription in the magazine was an attempt to at least allow me to follow the conversation, even if not being an active participant.
My wife had one reservation: the annual swimsuit issue. Which is where the whole subject of virtue (or lack thereof) and conscious acts of the will comes in.
The swimsuit issue comes out in February. Two weeks ago, I was flipping through the December 29 issue, and I saw a notice at the bottom of the Letters page: "If You Don't Want the Swimsuit Issue." The notice included directions for opting out of receiving the issue and provided both a toll free telephone number and a website URL. The fact that the magazine posted the notice and has a button on the customer service website specifically for those who prefer not to receive the issue seems to indicate that the number of subscribers who don't want the issue is not negligible.
As I've noted, I am not a virtuous man. If I were, I would have immediately called the number or gone online to decline the Swimsuit Issue. However, it took me two weeks. It took two weeks of telling myself what I should do, before I did it. The worst part of it is that there was (is) a part of me that didn't want me to do the right thing. "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. . . I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do." (Romans 7:15, 18-19)
St. Joseph, most chaste spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, pray for me.
Please note, that my dear wife did not put any pressure on me to decline the issue, aside from her initial reservation those many months ago when we first got the subscription. Note also that, content-wise, the weekly issue of Sports Illustrated are quite good, with very little that is morally objectionable (not nearly as bad as the direct mail soliciation from Men's Health magazine), some good human interest stories, and some truly amazing photographs (that don't feature models in swimsuits).