When we hear this word, we immediately imagine a disheveled man with dirty hair and homeless, calling for help. But what really is charity?
Greco-Roman antiquity is a gigantic ocean of knowledge, history, art and legacy. I had the opportunity to study about it at the University and I am not even close to reaching the twentieth part of its use, but the little that I have learned from that world has marked me deeply.
One of the things I like the most is the story of the words. Etymology is the branch of linguistics that studies the origin, meaning and evolution of words. One of those words has a tiny explanation that nonetheless puzzled me when I learned it. It is about the word charity , so today I am going to tell you three things about this word and its meaning.
What does charity mean?
Perhaps we can start by saying what is not the meaning of charity. When we hear this word, we immediately imagine a disheveled man, with dirty hair and homeless; who is walking through the streets asking people to give him help, usually monetary. Another way of conceptualizing charity has to do with a donation to a foundation (a company or non-governmental non-profit organization), which under almost all tax regimes we can deduct from our taxes.
Although the Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy records the use of “charity” as a synonym for “alms”, it is only the third meaning, so in linguistics it is known as a meaning “by extension.” However, the word charity comes from the Latin ‘caritas’, which means neither more nor less than ‘affection’, ‘love’. Thus, in Latin some letters could begin with the expression ‘caro amico’, which means ‘to my dear friend’, or ‘carissimo filio’, which is ‘to my most beloved son’. Still in Italian we can hear that word almost without alteration: ‘cara mia’ is ‘my dear’.
And is that everything that is “expensive” exceeds in estimated value to everything else. We want those things and people to whom we give a higher value than other things and people. Charity is a way of naming love, empathy, caring, and sympathy.
How, when and where is charity exercised?
Having put the meaning of charity in its place, when I learned its etymology I understood that the first people to whom I address my charity are members of my own family. So, I was still living in my parents’ house with my brother, so I discovered that the first beneficiaries of my charity must be them. It was both revealing and hopeful. But since the meaning that most people give to the word “charity” has to do with helping and serving others, I knew that before giving help, I should try to feel a sincere, clear and unreserved affection.
Therefore, I decided that when I realized that someone was experiencing a need – whether I knew him or not – I would endeavor to let a feeling, even a very small one, of love, darling, nest in my heart. interest, sympathy and compassion, not just a passing feeling of pity or pain. That feeling of charity, defined as I now knew it should be, has helped me to be more determined to act.
We have already talked about that in fasadmilias.com, you can read this article: Give and receive love as a family with these five habits
Charity is a virtue
The virtues are the result of well-established habits in life. They are much more palpable than values or moral and ideological principles. A person who aspires to develop a virtue does not need to fully understand the philosophical nature of the principle on which his character is to be based. You just need to start by performing an act motivated by that principle and then repeat it. As you repeat it more frequently, you will have developed a habit. If the habit is enduring enough, a stage will follow in which the acts that you perform, motivated by that principle, will be an inseparable part of your character: then you will have developed a virtue.
Charity is a virtue that must be acquired one step at a time, without fail; performing acts of kindness, empathy, help and genuine interest in others, from our wife to the lesser known employee of the company where we work. It will not always be easy, but our commitment to the principle of charity can quickly bring us closer to achieving this virtue, if we take it to the act. What will your next act of charity be?