People who have strong morals are considered to be virtuous, meaning they value honesty, respect, courage, kindness, etc. These qualities allow us to pursue ideals we believe to be important for our lives.
While morals tend to be affiliated with religion, virtues are not. Virtues are more associated with a philosophy than a religion.
The ancient Greeks virtues include:
- Wisdom – the ability to make well-thought-out decisions that are good for all.
- Justice – the act of respecting every individual’s rights.
- Moderation – the quality of practicing self-restraint and self-control.
- Courage – the ability to confront fear, intimidation, danger, difficulty and uncertainty
Not many people would disagree that these principles provide us with a good starting point for developing our moral character. But it is one thing to say we value these things, but another thing to put them into practice.
“Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny,”Stephen Covey
According to his autobiography, in 1726, at the age of 20, Benjamin Franklin created a system to develop his character.
- Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
- Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
- Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
- Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
- Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
- Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
- Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
- Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
- Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
- Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
- Tranquillity. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
- Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
- Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
He would put a black dot on the chart daily each time he thought he accomplished displaying the particular character trait he desired.
While this method may appeal to some of us, others need a less restrictive approach. We should each list the virtues we deem important and come up with a system to make each a part of our daily lives.
We are not born with virtues. Virtues, like most good habits, become part of our lives through learning and practice. As with most things, if you don’t use it, you lose it, so keep them forefront when faced with difficulties and decisions.