Have you seen the movie “War Games” from way back in 1983? It must still be popular since you have to rent or buy it on all the popular streaming services. Anyway, the plot is that a military supercomputer asks a hacker to play a nuclear war simulation game that nearly ends in the real mutual destruction of the USA and Russia. It concludes with the computer displaying a message that says “WINNER: NONE.” It then says that nuclear war is a strange game in which the only winning move is not to play.
Seems to me that the opposite is true in the game of life. In fact it’s more like the lottery; you can’t win if you don’t play. Lets call “winning” living a life that gets us to heaven. Playing is demonstrating our belief and faith in God through working to develop our talents, serving others and behaving virtuously. Good news for us since we have already learned how to defeat the seven deadly sins with their contrary virtues over the last seven weeks. How are you doing so far? Are you winning?
The great thing about games is they have an objective scoring system so we know how well we are performing. And based on our results over time we can determine what we need to work on in order to continually improve. Let’s use the game of golf as an example.
In golf you count how many times you hit the ball to get it into the hole. You compare that number against what has been determined to be a good score for the hole; i.e. par. Par is basically determined by how many shots it should take you to get to the green, plus two putts.
Knowing this helps you to determine what you need to work on to get better. Drives, approach shots and/or putts. Work on those things and try again. Simple, and the fun part is seeing the improvement in your score over time. That’s why so many people like to golf. Plus it is one of the few valid excuses to get out of work without faking an illness…I mean being sick.
What does this have to do with playing the game of life and behaving virtuously? Plenty. I have a simple game for you. I’ve been playing it for a year and a half. It has helped me significantly improve my V behavior. I thought it might help you as well so I’m happy to share it with you now.
Here is a worksheet to help. I call it The Flying V Tracker. It lists all the V’s with summary descriptions, and has blank spaces where you can record your performance on each V, every day.
Here’s how it works. During the course of each day you track all the good and bad things you think, say and do back to the Virtues and Vices. We instinctively know when we do good or bad. That pesky thing called a conscience tells us. You usually know when you are feeling particularly good or bad about yourself. In order to play the game you need to be acutely aware of these feelings and to stop and think about what is causing them.
Ask yourself one question. Why? Why did I just think, say, or do that? Or maybe fail to do something you know you should do. If you ask yourself why enough times you will end up realizing that the root cause of your good or bad was one of the virtues or vices. The seven deadly sins are the underlying root cause of all sin. Thankfully their contrary virtues are the root cause of all good.
Once you have identified the appropriate V, give yourself a point. A positive one for displaying a virtue, and negative for a vice. Use hash marks to tally each good or bad behavior in the respective V (vice or virtue) row. When you are done for the day, total the marks for the vices and the virtues separately. There is a row for each of those totals. Then subtract the vices from the virtues to get a net score. Positive is obviously better.
I can tell you that when I started doing this the net daily total was usually negative. Then I learned to catch myself before doing the bad, and instead chose to do the good. Paying attention made all the difference.
Just for fun I developed a grading system, kind of a par for the course guide. I actually used some fancy statistical modeling tools to develop it in case you are wondering. It’s just a guide. I obviously have no authority to award points or grades. I simply use it as an awareness tool to identify improvement opportunities and motivate me to do better.
Here’s my grading table. Look up your daily net score below to determine your grade.
When I first started tracking, my goal was simply to avoid the vices. A defensive strategy. While I had some victories, it became obvious that only through actively pursuing the virtues would I ever consistently get a passing grade.
So I went on offense. I now attempt to proactively, persistently and consistently live the virtues. It works when I do. Focusing on virtue gives vice little time to rear its ugly head. No doubt the enemy will continue to tempt us with the easy path of vice, but we can overcome him with a little self-discipline. Our behavior is one of the few things we can control. The beauty and curse of free will.
There is your winning strategy, use the virtues to defeat the vices every time. The battle of good versus evil can be won, it’s up to you.
Here is your challenge. Play the Flying V game during the upcoming week. Track your behavior daily and compute your score and grade. At the end of the week compute a net score and grade for the week. Then look at the net scores for each virtue/vice paring and pick one virtue to work on. Review the prior blog specific to that virtue and determine what specifically you will do to improve. Then do it!
One last piece of advice. Pick the virtue that will give you the greatest improvement in score. Focus on proactively demonstrating that virtue. Avoiding the vice is harder. Telling yourself not to do something is more difficult than telling yourself to do something. Somehow the “not” gets skipped over in your mind and the thing you don’t want to do becomes the thing you will in fact do.
“For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.” Romans 7:19
Play the game again the following week. You will see improvement! I’d really like you to commit to playing for the entire month of June. You will be amazed at how quickly you improve simply because you are paying closer attention to your behavior. You might even find that you are happier. It feels good to be consistently virtuous.
That’s it. The end of our V’s series. Based on your kind feedback I’ve decided to write an e-book about defeating the vices with the virtues. The working title is, “The Flying V’s – Soar to new heights through living a life of virtue.” If you have a better title, let me know. I’ll be sending it to all our newsletter subscribers. If you are not yet on our list you can sign up here.
The next newsletter will be published next week. It will announce an opportunity to participate in a complimentary on-line retreat which will begin June 11. Check it out. And thank you for striving to become the saint you are meant to be!
Joyful Blessings, Scott