Virtue - defined as a particular moral excellence. And since we talked about honoring both our father and our mother last week, let’s look at why we would benefit from a study of virtues in general. The simple answer is to further develop our ability to respond to what life brings us; to develop our response-ability.
Dear Why Team member,
I hope his weeks message finds you more than just surviving, but rather thriving during this extraordinary time. It’s my hope that these writings are of encouragement to you and are fueling your thinking discerning mind.
If you are still reading this post after reading the word “virtues” above, it is likely you are one who takes on responsibility and desires to grow and learn.
Why would one turn away?
Maybe because reading the word ‘virtues’ reminds us of our personal responsibilities; and to develop virtues requires sacrifice and hard work.
Why study and learn the virtues?
Because learning and practicing virtues can help ground and center us; better inform and empower us to attain more excellence in our lives.
I have often shared with my children, over the years, that the time to fortify your Fort is before the siege, not during it.
Why attend daily to the details of how we live our lives?
Because daily attention and discipline fortify us, and prepare us, for the challenges that most certainly will come. Take exercise as an example, or as I prefer: training. My experience had been that exercise was more self-focused, as to improve one’s looks, but training, was more other-focused, driven by a desire to improve one’s ability to respond and be more capable in their life and their service to others. I made the switch from exercise to training years ago when I was booked to give six speeches in three days. I became concerned I wouldn’t be fit enough to bring my best self to each event and thus began my training mindset; which for me was the necessary shift to maintain my consistent daily training disciplines. While there will always be room for improvement, the training mindset, focused on improving our response-ability, is a very empowering mindset to achieve more excellence in all areas of our lives.
An old saying states that we learn all our lives and when we die, we’re still ignorant. In other words, there will still be so much we did not learn. President John Adams had thousands of books and was a prolific reader his entire life. Late in his life, in a letter to Jefferson, he wrote: “The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know”.
Don’t become bothered by the fact that you cannot achieve absolute excellence, but rather be empowered by the meaning that comes from its pursuit - as you continue training and practicing various virtues.
So, let us review some virtues.
No matter your religious or non-religious beliefs, most everyone will agree that there are indeed virtues - as they come to us from those who have gone before us; insightful wisdom gained through experience that is very much worthy of our attention.
Four of the seven Christian virtues known as classic virtues are prudence, justice, temperance and courage (or fortitude). These essentially match the more ancient Stoics who believed there were primarily four virtues:
Wisdom (prudence), Courage(fortitude), Temperance and Justice. The Christians also include Faith, Hope and Charity.
While we can certainly come up with more human behaviors we might call virtuous, consider each of the seven virtues above and how you might rank yourself on a scale of one to ten; one being a big weakness for you with ten being a personal strength.
How can it not serve us to take an honest look at ourselves and assign a score?
Consider asking those closest to you to score you as well - and somehow gather all their answers anonymously; this way you are more likely to receive their true impressions. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn others graded you higher in some respects than you did yourself- we’re often our worst critics.
I believe we humans need to have a point to most effectively live our lives; at what are we pointing - where are we focusing, aiming, to avoid being aimless?
Why not consider aiming at improving your virtue scores?
Why? To become more for yourself and others. Also, to improve your abilities to respond to life and thus become a more responsible human being. To better become what you want to see in the world, and frankly is there anything better to do with your life than to become a better example for others to follow?!
If you have children, I believe it to be a core responsibility as a parent. But having children or not, just to leave the world a better place for having been born is really something to live for - to give one’s life meaning. When you consider the alternative and how much worse life can be for not attending to the virtues, I would choose the tougher higher ground over the lower road that can more easily lead to misery.
Dennis Mosley Williams opened my mind to an insight I had never considered; why is the Guru so high up on a mountain and so difficult to reach? Because the wisdom comes from the climb, not the destination.
It seems for us to have a mountain-top experience, we must do the climbing - and at the top it’s the Guru within that makes its presence known.
This week, consider the virtues as mountains worthy of the climb. Where might you have more climbing to do? Be courageous (a Virtue) and ever more intentional at climbing those specific mountains; becoming more of an example for yourself and others to follow.
Make it a great week!