Character VirtuesParentingPeace

So many virtues, so little time

Which virtues would be the most effective in helping us to live together in peace and joy? (5 minute read)

Virtue is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as: ‘a good moral quality in a person, or the general quality of being morally good’. Character has been defined as ‘the intentional effort of living out one’s core values and working on continuous growth through ethical and compassionate decision-making.’ At one per month for a year, I needed at least twelve virtues to focus on. Thus, my next step was to examine the literature on virtues and constructive character attributes.

Excellent character traits have been described and admired since ancient times. The Greeks and Romans philosophised about desired personal qualities. They believed that ongoing deliberate actions were required to consolidate ‘those qualities of character and intellect that make for a worthwhile and beautiful human existence.’ (Gregory R Beabout).

In 1726, at the age of 20, Benjamin Franklin created a system for developing his character. It consisted of adherence to thirteen virtues: temperance (eat/drink in moderation), silence (speak only when it benefits others or yourself), order (be organised), resolution (formulate and meet goals), frugality (waste nothing), industry (don’t waste time), sincerity (speak fairly and kindly), justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquillity (equanimity), chastity (sex for health or procreation) and humility (imitate Jesus and Socrates).

In the early 1990’s, The Virtues Project was created after extensive examination of the world’s sacred traditions identified ‘central virtues’ at the heart of these cultures and belief systems. They define over 50 virtues and provide practical ways parents and educators can assist youth to develop character virtues.

Similarly, Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman (2004) studied the worlds cultures and distinguished six core virtues comprising 24 character strengths. Today, the VIA Institute on Character offers everyone the opportunity to find their signature strengths by completing a free, on-line survey. This tool has been scientifically and empirically validated and aims to assist its users to flourish.

Gregory R Beabout, professor of philosophy at Saint Louis University, has written extensively on traditional virtues and their application to modern life. Drawing on Hindu, Buddhist, Greek, Roman, Jewish, Christian, Islamic and other teachings, he has compiled a list of 109 virtues for his readers to contemplate!

From these and other sources, I created a register of virtues and character strengths and began the arduous task of reducing them to a more feasible number. My plan was to compile a ‘doable’ list of virtues for all the families involved in this project. Each family could then choose those virtues which most suited their family situation and values and concentrate on developing them.

“You express the truth of your character with the choice of your actions.’ Steve Maraboli

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