Virtue is no longer in vogue. It seems that no one talks about the importance of having good moral character anymore. Today’s messaging is all feel-good self-indulgence: “embrace yourself,” “do self-care," and “you are enough” are the messages of the day. We’re not given any advice on how to become a better person – we’re told we’re already done.
But good character is really the only thing we have control over and the only thing that will really sustain us. We can't always control our circumstances. We can’t control where we’re from, who our family is, or how we look, but we can always improve who we are and how we behave.
Virtues give us value beyond our wealth, zip code, status, or influence. Our generation severely lacks messaging that encourages us to work on our character. So why is it so important to talk about?
What Are Virtues?
First of all, since no one really talks about them: What even are virtues? Virtues are qualities of moral excellence. They make up a good character and a good personality and make you a good person to be around. Examples of virtues are:
Patience – enduring hardship calmly and gracefully
Chastity – refraining from promiscuity
Endurance – withstanding hardship
Loyalty – faithfulness, fidelity
Courage – being brave amidst fear
Tact – sensitivity when dealing with difficult issues
Temperance – voluntary self-restraint
Self-Control – controlling your emotions, impulses, or behaviors
Generosity – being giving
Optimism – hopefulness in the future
Sincerity – being authentic and honest
Sacrifice – giving up something precious for something or someone else
There are many more, but studying the virtues is a good way to train yourself to recognize qualities that make up a solid personality.
Why We Need Virtue
We're no longer allowed to pass judgment on other's behavior or morals because we're all supposed to be accepting and tolerant. But as we've become less focused on judging people on their character, the only thing we have left to judge others on is their appearance.
Our lack of emphasis on character places the burden of how we feel on things that don’t hold up, such as our appearance. Many women are upset about how they look and turn to plastic surgery to make them feel better because we feel like our looks are all we have to offer. We believe that just working on our looks will make us feel valuable.
We usually choose fleeting, impermanent, or superficial things that only help us feel better for a short amount of time.
When society de-emphasizes or eliminates the importance of virtue, people have to fall back on other things to feel good about themselves, and they usually choose things that are fleeting, impermanent, or superficial – things that only help you feel better for a short amount of time, if at all.
We currently have a very libertine, “feel good” self-help culture instead of a society that helps us identify areas of our personalities that might need strengthening. But when we acknowledge the “you are enough” platitude isn’t the whole truth and decide to work on our virtue, it results in confidence on a deep level. We’ve accomplished something. This will minimize things in our lives that we thought mattered a lot but really don’t.
Virtue is a rock you can stand on, even when times get tough.
The Importance of Virtue
Virtuous qualities are the basic necessities for leading a good life and for having positive well-being. By being virtuous, we have better relationships, understanding, and connections with the people in our lives, and we cultivate a good reputation in our communities. Virtues make us strong and help us establish our sense of purpose. They help us to really know who we are and give us a sense of worth as a person. This strong sense of self will draw others towards us. You’ll shine like a light for other people.
Virtue helps us to really know who we are and gives us a sense of worth as a person.
How Can We Be Virtuous?
To be virtuous, start to look for moments or areas in your life where you could increase a certain virtue. Maybe when something small goes wrong, you’re quick to moan or whine. This is a good chance to practice patience, which is enduring hardship calmly or gracefully.
Maybe you’re sarcastic a lot as a defensive mechanism – this could be a place to bring in more sincerity. Maybe you struggle with drinking too much – this is an opportunity to practice self-control.
Maybe there’s something in your life you’re avoiding because you’re frightened – you’re afraid to end a relationship, or initiate one with someone you admire, or leave a job you don’t like. You could bring the virtue of courage into these situations to help you.
Look for moments or areas in your life where you could increase a certain virtue.
Maybe you talk or act out a lot when you don’t need to – learn to practice temperance, and speak and act only when it’s necessary.
Maybe you’re prone to sharing negative thoughts so people will build you back up. This is an opportunity to change your energy and practice the virtues of cheerfulness, optimism, and endurance. Being virtuous is learning to act mindfully, with purpose and discretion. Virtue practice will give you a better sense of well-being and that will bring better people into your life.
The great thing about learning virtues is we don’t need anyone else to learn and practice them – all we need is ourselves. Through learning virtues, we can become content with ourselves and with our actions. Our society may not talk about virtues anymore, but learning to be virtuous will always be worth it.
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