“Blood is an inheritance; virtue an acquisition” (Miguel de Cervantes).
THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO BE RICH. PHYSICAL, OR FINANCIAL, WEALTH IS WHAT MOST PEOPLE WOULD THINK OF FIRST. But today, let’s spend a moment thinking about another kind of richness: richness of character. And for purposes of our discussion here, let’s do something a little different; let’s define richness of character as having a character sumptuously full of choice ingredients. What we should want in life is to have a character that is not flat, one-dimensional, and monotonous, but one that is rich, variegated, and deeply textured.
So what has to happen for our hearts to be “enriched”? Well, first they have to be exposed to things that can enrich them. Whether it’s different people, different circumstances, different challenges, or simply different weather, we need to get out of our ruts and let ourselves come into contact with things that can add to the quality of our character. If it’s nothing more than taking a different way home from work once in a while, we need to go out of our way to see new things.
But exposure is not enough; we must let ourselves become involved with things that can enrich us. Two individuals may go to a social event and both be exposed to people they’ve never met before. One, however, may come away enriched while the other leaves completely unchanged. What’s the difference? In both cases there was exposure to enrichment, but in only one case was there involvement. So we need to make sure the experiences that come our way don’t simply wash over us; we must open ourselves up to them. Enrichment can’t take place if we don’t let it work its magic on us.
Ultimately, however, there is no true richness of heart if there has been no exposure to or involvement with the principles of rightness and honor. No matter how richly textured they may be in other ways, if our characters haven’t been made more worthy by the acquirement of virtue, then we’re still paupers. To be rich, in the long run, simply means to do what is right. It means faithfulness to valid principles.
Richness of heart, then, in this last, highest sense, is not the only kind of richness to which we might aspire, but without it, none of the other kinds matter very much. It’s what’s on the inside that counts.
“Without the rich heart, wealth is an ugly beggar” (Ralph Waldo Emerson).