Matt Knutson: Don’t discount ability to create better world

Published 9:07 pm Thursday, October 12, 2017

Things I Tell My Wife by Matt Knutson

“Where did she learn that?” I asked my wife as our daughter boastfully shouted, “Mine!” while grabbing a toy from my hand. We may never exactly place where she picked up the bad habit, but the origin source probably doesn’t matter all that much. She was bound to stumble into the possessive nature that many of her older peers at day care display. If it wasn’t at day care, Gracelyn could just have easily embraced the subtle message of greed from a commercial, TV show or movie that we watch on a rare occasion. Maybe Sera and I even demonstrated it to her unknowingly. Either way, she embraced, “Mine!” more so than anything else we’ve purposefully tried to teach her.

A few weeks ago at work I had the opportunity to hear a successful business person share some inspiring thoughts around culture and values. In his remarks, he highlighted how much of our cultural consumption is based around what is termed the seven deadly sins. They’re the natural pieces of storytelling, so they become embedded in the entertainment and journalism we consume. As someone who appreciates a good story, I both recognized the complaint he had, but couldn’t imagine why I’d want to consume something without a good plot. It was then that I was reminded of the seven virtues.

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For those unfamiliar with the Christian faith (and particularly Catholicism, though this is certainly applicable beyond that denomination), there are seven virtues which correspond with the seven deadly sins. Lust is paired with chastity, gluttony with temperance (moderation, self-restraint), greed with charity, sloth with diligence, wrath with patience, envy with gratitude, and pride with humility. How powerful would it be if we shifted our content to be focused on stories anchored on these virtues? The opportunity is there; we just need to bolster it.

Of course, not everyone has a prominent platform for storytelling. We’re not all fortunate to have a dedicated place in the Albert Lea Tribune each week. Do not discount your ability to create a better world, however, as we all do tell stories. Whether it be to your neighbor when you greet each other at the mailbox or the person behind you in the checkout line at the grocery store, our conversations shape who we are and the world around us. Instead of letting the conversation meander towards the ills of the world, consider leaning into the virtues. In a world filled with the desire for wrath, put out a message of patience. When we see a tweet-storm filled with pride, embrace more humility in your life.

In a culture that is evolving every second through a barrage of communication channels, it becomes everyone’s individual task to cultivate their intake of society in a way that will better themselves as the people around them. Certainly, the counter-traits of the virtues will always exist, and it would do more harm than good to ignore them. Yet, I believe we can only advance by focusing on how we can create more good instead of simply recognizing the bad.

Whether these set of virtues speak to you or another come to mind, I encourage you to pursue at least one in these next few days and let it penetrate all aspects of your life. You might just notice a new light in your world. I know I cannot completely undo Gracelyn’s commitment to “Mine!” at her young age, but I can demonstrate charity for her. That’s a good enough place to start as any.

Matt Knutson is a communications specialist in Rochester.