Why didn’t God just create us with a behavioral governor inside our brains? Why didn’t God create a better human in a better world without the possibility of unmitigated desire for pleasure? Why didn’t God just create us like cows – when we’ve had enough, we just stop? Because God wanted us to define ourselves in terms of ordinary, non-heroic choices. God wanted us to choose the noble in utterly ordinary circumstances, but with a cost – to choose the noble over against another scotch; over against another amusement; over against another material purchase; over against anything else which would undermine our pursuit of the noble. In the day-to-day, ordinary, non-heroic choices we make, an essence (self-definition) begins to form, etched in our character beyond mere thought and aspiration, through the constant pursuit of the little things that enable nobility to emerge from our souls.
We might fail in this pursuit countless times, but our perseverance in struggle, our perseverance in the midst of failure, can be just as effective in etching self-definition into our eternal souls as perfect control and perfect success. In God’s logic of unconditional love (which includes unconditional forgiveness and healing), our acts of contrition, our hope in forgiveness, our perseverance in the struggle for self-control, and our undying desire for the noble are all “part of the cost” of virtue, which makes that virtue more than a mere thought or aspiration. This struggle is the cost which etches that virtue into our very eternal souls – the precious cost of self-definition.