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What we do makes us who we are

In his Theological Reflection in the Church of England's "Guidelines to the professional conduct of the clergy" (Church House Publishing 2015)   The Very Frevd Dr Francis Bridger writes:

        "According to William Willimon, character can be defined as the ‘basic moral orientation that gives unity, definition and direction to our lives by forming our habits into meaningful and predictable patterns that have been determined by our dominant convictions’.
        What we do is governed by who we are.
        As Stanley Hauerwas notes, each of us makes moral choices arising out of ‘the dispositions, experience, traditions, heritage and virtues that he or she has cultivated’. "

This type setting is not in the original text but as borrowed by the Church in Wales on its website page "Introduction to the Cure of Souls".
Here this sentence is made its own paragraph:

        "What we do is governed by who we are."

It is obviously a right thing to say.


But not, in fact, true.


We may have to travel a long way through life before we begin to realize that the opposite is in fact the case.


What we do makes us who we are.


It would be easy to say it's a circular thing, that both are true. At one kind of level one might say they are true... but even then that would be to miss the point. 

Insisting that what we do makes us who we are is counter intuitive only so long as our intuition is governed by the obvious. Obviously we have attitudes and they make us do things. But that does not describe how we learned from our infancy. It was how we behaved, behaviour largely shaped by parental figures, that made us who we are.  And it is still true that who we are is shaped by what we do.  We act our way into making our mind up, we behave our way into being who we are. 

And that is the difference between virtue and morality.

Virtues are not ideas but practices, values are not practices but ideas.

So the "theological virtues" - faith, hope and love - are not ideals or mental concepts but ways of behaving or they are nothing at all.