Piety. This has been one of the hardest of the Virtues for me to try to describe. Saying that it is ‘selfless love’ – without any explanations as to what that means to me – just doesn’t seem correct. And just trying to explain it, well, this will be an attempt. It’s just one of the deepest feelings I have, and some feelings just can’t be explained. But I’ll try.
In my researches on this virtue, I found that there is more depth of concept in Piety than I’d originally thought. Most people think of Piety in terms of religious belief and worship, and forget that filial Piety has been documented in myths and sagas for centuries. One definition of filial Piety is ‘respect for the parents and ancestors’.
In Greece, a religiously pious person would perform the rituals to their various gods, and would make sure that their interactions with superiors, peers, and inferiors were correctly performed according to the rules of proper action.
To me, Piety is a combination of both religious and filial Piety. It’s doing what is right and correct for the Gods, the Ancestors, and every being or spirit that we interact with every day. I even have a personal example of filial Piety (ok, so it’s my brother-in-law, but...). My mother-in-law was bedridden with an illness called Alexander’s Syndrome which is similar to Multiple Sclerosis. She now needed constant in-home care. While her condition worsened, my BIL was attending Nursing school – he even got to do his surgical rotation at Stanford Medical Center! He made the decision to stop his schooling so that he could take care of mom and promptly lied to her about finishing school so she would not feel guilty about his not finishing just to take care of her.
Yes, he did go back and finish his degree. In fact, he finally got his license just a few months ago (it took the state almost nine months to get it to him). He (and the rest of us kids) felt that it was more important to take care of her.
In the Dedicant’s Handbook, Piety is defined as “Correct observance of ritual and social traditions, the maintenance of the agreements (both personal and societal) we humans have with the Gods and Spirits. Keeping the Old Ways, through ceremony and duty.” It really needs to include some wording to include the fact that these observances need to come from a place of love, for when love, not duty, inspires our actions, we have achieved the highest degree of Piety.