In his Confessions, St. Augustine famously says that, in his youth, he prayed, “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.” You can see why a quote like that has had staying power. It hits close to home for a lot of people.
It hits even closer if we broaden its language: “Make me good, but not yet.” There are other virtues besides chastity and continence that we don’t want so much as we’d like to imagine.
Take forgiveness. We know we’re supposed to forgive others, but many of us would really like to cling to at least some of our grudges, whether they’re grudges against people we know or people (maybe groups) we don’t know. “Make me forgiving, but not too much: Let me hold onto some of the pleasures of feeling righteous resentment.”
Or take courage — as in having the courage of your convictions. Do we really, really want to be fearless about doing the right thing? With all the risks and hardships that’s likely to entail? Or would we rather stay at least somewhat fearful, and thus safe? “Make me kinda brave, but let me retain enough timidity to keep from getting in really big trouble.”
Write your own confessions here. In your prayers, how do you hedge on the amount of virtue you’d like to have, or the amount of vice you’d like to be rid of?