My Psalm 78
Virtues: Carpe Diem!
We all have them. We express them differently but I firmly believe we all have them. Sometimes they are like a song that you know. Maybe you have sung it the same way forever and ever but then you hear a different arrangement. It is still the same song and yet, it is its own composition.
Virtues are a great deal similar to the familiar song. Virtues are a positive characteristic. Sometimes called a moral excellence, a virtue is a positive trait or quality characterized as being good. The ancient Egyptians called such a concept Maat and it included truth, balance, order, law, moraliry, and justice. Maat was personified as a goddess who controlled the starts, the seasons, and the actions of mankind as well as the other deities. The counterpart of Maat was Isfet who symbolized chaos, lies, and injustice. While Maat represented virtue, Isfet represented vice.
Classically, there were four cardinal virtues: temperance, prudence, courage, and justice. Most would agree that those are indeed good things to have and ways to live. To live by those traits, though, can be tricky. No one virtue can stand alone. Prudence is concerned with knowledge and not action. Yet, prudence must be a part of all action if it is to be productive and moral. Knowing when to temper punishment with praise, when to act with courage and not recklessness, knowing how to administer justice….These all are virtuous acts if done properly and with prudence.
Aristotle described this in his “Nicomachean Ethics”: “At the right times, about the right things, towards the right people, for the right end, and in the right way, is the intermediate and best condition, and this is proper to virtue.” Aristotle defined a virtue as a “golden mean”, that perfect point between excess and deficiency. Many people reach for the golden mean when donating to the homeless. You don’t want to simply walk up to a homeless person and give them a thousand dollars and yet, you don’t want to ignore them either. Generosity can be a virtue that fits nicely in the middle of being stingy and being excessive. Similarly, courage should be the golden mean between abject cowardice and foolhardy behavior.
Confidence is a golden mean most of us struggle with each and every day. It lies between crippling low self-esteem and arrogant narcissism and vanity. Aristotle saw virtue as the key to succeeding at being human. He felt virtue to be the key to not only surviving life but to thrive at it. Virtues are those things that enable us to create lasting relationships, succeed at a career, and find happiness.
It is said that doing something for twenty-one days will make it into a habit. The Virtues Project is all about making virtues a habit. Their statement reads: “ Virtues are the very meaning and purpose of our lives, the content of our character and the truest expression of our souls. For people of all cultures, ethnicities and beliefs, they are the essence of authentic success. Virtue means power, strength, inner quality. Virtues are the content of our character, the elements of the human spirit. They grow stronger whenever we use them.
What is The Virtues Project? Quoting their website: “It was Easter weekend in 1988 when Linda Kavelin Popov, her husband Dr. Dan Popov and brother John Kavelin were discussing the state of the world over brunch at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia. They decided to do something to counteract the rising violence of children toward others and themselves. They believed that violence is a symptom and meaninglessness is the disease. They spent a summer of discernment reflecting on what would give children a sense of meaning and purpose. Tapping into Dan’s years of research in the world’s sacred traditions, they had an “Aha! Moment”. They discovered that virtues are at the heart of meaning in every culture and belief system, from indigenous oral traditions to the world’s Sacred texts.”
The first client for their project proved to be the leader of one of Canada’s indigenous American Indian tribes, one of the First Nations as they are called in Canada. The Virtues Project is now in over 52 countries. They explain their success: “Each of us has both Strength Virtues we can rely on, and Growth Virtues that are the challenges of our character. A lifelong learner never gives up hope that at any moment, we can awaken a virtue by choosing to live it.”
We will not all portray the same virtue in the same way. Diversity has been a part of Creation from their beginning and evolution has simply enhanced it and taken us steps closer to perfecting it. However, nature and our world will not be continuing if we do not all develop virtuous living. We must treat each other with respect in order for the planet to thrive and live harmoniously with happiness for all.
My Psalm 78
You have given us a planet;
Yet we seek others.
You provided us food;
Yet we taint it with chemicals.
You gave us beautiful flora and fauna;
Yet we destroy it with pollution.
You offered us a Prophet;
Yet we forget His words in our daily living.
You love us in spite of everything;
We treat your children, made in your image, as trespassers.
Help, O God, do develop virtues for living.
Help us improve ourselves.
Lead us into the future with goodness.
Help us not destroy the future.
Guide us from gluttony to appreciation and respect.
May we learn the daily habit of gratitude, Lord.