On today’s blog I am going to share with you the topic of VIRTUE and the ways to look at virtues in your own life and how you may or may not be incorporating them. I hope you’ll stick around for the next few minutes and I look forward to hearing back from you after the blog in the comments section of the podcast. We value your input!
Virtue. It’s a small word and a big topic. There are many view points about it and I’d like to share with you some things you may not have considered, didn’t think you needed to consider or I’ll just pump you up and make you feel great since you already know all about it!
Maybe you heard of a guy by the name Aristotle? He was and is one of the most noted teachers about virtue. He is most known for his work entitled Virtue as the Mean Between Two Extreme States.
Before we go there, what is the basic definition of virtue? Well, a virtue is a trait or quality that is deemed to be morally good and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being. Personal virtues are characteristics valued as promoting collective and individual greatness. The opposite of virtue is vice.
Pretty easy to see that depending on culture and language, a virtue could mean one thing to someone and something totally different to another.
The opposite, as just heard through the definition of virtue is vice.
Vice is defined as immoral or wicked behavior. Again, pretty easy to think of examples right away, however, it again could mean different things in different cultures.
I think it is very easy to see that we have a decline of good virtue, especially in America than we have prior, and yes, we have many virtue issues in our past and many vices as a country, however, we live in 2018 and we are the ones living in this world today. What are some things we can learn from those that have gone before us? What are some things we can learn from God that have been there, well, since time as we know it began.
I obviously can’t go into a forever blog today, but we can start somewhere. Let’s start with something you may be familiar with. The 7 deadly sins.
If you are wondering, no, there is not a scripture that lists and says this is the list of the 7 deadly sins. There are however, many scriptures that speak of them and even name a few. One of the most popular scriptures that actually has 7 points is found in Proverbs 6: 17-19.. Here it is in The Message for a quick and easy reference:
16-19 Here are six things God hates, and one more that he loathes with a passion: eyes that are arrogant, a tongue that lies, hands that murder the innocent, a heart that hatches evil plots, feet that race down a wicked track, a mouth that lies under oath, a troublemaker in the family.
So, now that we have heard scripture, here is the common list of the 7 deadly sins:
The “seven deadly sins” were originally based on a list of eight principal vices. The list was developed in the fourth century C.E. by the mystic Evagrius Ponticus, whose work inspired the writings of monk and ascetic John Cassian. In the sixth century, Pope Gregory I changed Cassian’s list of eight vices into the list of seven deadly, or cardinal, sins of Roman Catholic theology: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, anger, and sloth. Gregory viewed these as capital, or principal, sins in that many other sins came from them.
Okay, put on your learning caps, I want to share with you a chapter from Aristotle’s work Book II of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics as it was translated by W. D. Ross.
Chapter 5 [What virtue is: Its Genus]
Next we must consider what virtue is. Since things that are found in the soul are of three kinds–passions, faculties, states of character, virtue must be one of these. By passions I mean appetite, anger, fear, confidence, envy, joy, friendly feeling, hatred, longing, emulation, pity, and in general the feelings that are accompanied by pleasure or pain; by faculties the things in virtue of which we are said to be capable of feeling these, e.g. of becoming angry or being pained or feeling pity; by states of character the things in virtue of which we stand well or badly with reference to the passions, e.g. with reference to anger we stand badly if we feel it violently or too weakly, and well if we feel it moderately; and similarly with reference to the other passions.
Now neither the virtues nor the vices are passions, because we are not called good or bad on the ground of our passions, but are so called on the ground of our virtues and our vices, and because we are neither praised nor blamed for our passions (for the man who feels fear or anger is not praised, nor is the man who simply feels anger blamed, but the man who feels it in a certain way), but for our virtues and our vices we are praised or blamed.
Again, we feel anger and fear without choice, but the virtues are modes of choice or involve choice. Further, in respect of the passions we are said to be moved, but in respect of the virtues and the vices we are said not to be moved but to be disposed in a particular way.
For these reasons also they are not faculties; for we are neither called good nor bad, nor praised nor blamed, for the simple capacity of feeling the passions; again, we have the faculties by nature, but we are not made good or bad by nature; we have spoken of this before. If, then, the virtues are neither passions nor faculties, all that remains is that they should be states of character.
Thus we have stated what virtue is in respect of its genus.
Scheeeew, that is not something I say every day, but it sure helps us understand (mostly) where and what we are talking about and going.
I revealed last week that I am a great nephew to Benjamin Franklin. Yes, that Benjamin. My wife hates that I talk about it, and I surely don’t do that to brag at all, I am honored to be considered family with him and do want to honor that legacy in my life as much as I can. As for kites and keys, probably not so much! 🙂
I know that my great uncle had many faults in his life and was not completely a perfect example, and I’m able to say, neither am I. I have been researching my uncle a bit more lately and found out some really exciting things about him and feel like some of his passions are mine as well, I guess you can say it might be in my DNA.
Uncle Ben was very intent about virtue in his life. I know that because of some of his mistakes he was probably driven to better as a result of his past vices. I can relate with that. He was so passionate about good virtue, he created what we would call a modern day planner and journal to inventory his life, be accountable for things in it and through observation of certain things in his life, he could make corrections easier.
One quote he was noted for saying was:
He was born into a family of seventeen children, the son of a poor candle and soap maker. Benjamin realized early on in his life the importance of self-improvement. Though he only attended one year of grammar school, this young boy would learn on his own how to read and write. To improve and learn, he would study the writings of famous authors and force himself to write in their same style.
There is so much I could say about him and his accolades in life, I’ll save that for another time, one thing that really jumped out to me and created this buzz in my spirit to talk about this week was a list of virtues he wrote down. Mind you, when he wrote this and created his personal development plan to accompany them, he was 20 years old. Amazing! He wrote in his biography about this time in his life: “It was about this time I conceived the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I wished to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into.” Okay, so here they are:
- 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 employed 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.
The desire to improve and grow is probably one of the top money-making efforts in print, events and the internet. It’s everywhere you look. People like top dog CEOs and successful business people to incredible athletes, artists or anyone else on the planet for that matter have found ways to develop and leverage their instinctive potential and talent. So when my Uncle Ben wrote these things, it wasn’t like he was the only one who ever had the thought, but he did have an opportunity.
There is no doubt that some seem to rise to the top while others don’t rise at all, and perhaps even sink to a lower level than expected. I believe that the one thing most vital between both groups of people is the desire to change and how to implement a way to do it.
That is why I brought up the personal development planner. What is vital in defining virtue in your life and doing something about it?
- Write it down. As we discussed the 13 points Benjamin Franklin wrote down, he wrote it, expounded each point and had a plan to personally examine the results.
- Shoot for the stars– What I mean by that is, some things can be so big that the only way we can achieve them is by trusting in Christ to get us to and through them. I can’t always see how I can get through a schedule I created to do #GodsGotThis and Hope Revealed ministry 5 days a week, but I was shooting for the stars, or, trusted that the vision came from God and only He could get me through and to it.
- Attainable time– Things don’t always have to happen NOW. I’m one of those guys. I like to do it and do it now. But some things just take time. A list of things nowable and laterable are key to success. There is no doubt that Benjamin didn’t claim to be anywhere near Christ, but he wanted to work on getting closer. That is something I am trying to do as well.
- Valuable Virtue– Some may jump right into the dollar value of that statement when at 20 and the son of a candle maker trying to figure his life out, dollars were not necessarily the prime focus of these points of virtue. They did, however, have incredible value and meaning to his life and could easily lead him on any path life directed and still hold him challenged and accountable.
I always feel that the best source of information can always be found in the Bible. The issue for some is not that they don’t want to look there, it is the unsureity of where to even look.
A biblical example is that someone with virtue displays wisdom, courage, kindness, good manners, courtesy, modesty, generosity, and self-control in their life. They treat others fairly and esteem others highly and value the sanctity of life. They treat others better than they are treated. Someone who has virtue has good, moral ethics and makes biblical choices in life.
One of my favorite scriptures is Philippians 4:8 Paul (he’s the guy who wrote this chapter and much of the New Testament) really shared with us a glimpse into Godly virtue and a great how to list for ourselves. Here it is: I want to share it with you again in the version of the Bible called The Message because sometimes it really has a way of hitting you right between the ears with understanding.. I like several versions, so I encourage you to look at a few, here it is Philippians 4:8-9 “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” I love reading that every time! It is like an emotional buzz for me, and sometimes it can feel like a smack in the face when I’m not living into those principles. What are some of those that were just mentioned? True: am I living in the truth of God’s word? Noble, am I living in a just and fair way? Pure, how about that holy living part, how is that going? Lovely, we’re not talking about some nice dress or suit and good manners here, it about living love out loud as Christ does. Then there is that things of good report line… That is reports of people doing good things for God and good things done by God that are noticed and notable. Unfortunately, virtues like these and behaviors like these are not as common as once a passion and target in people’s lives used to be. Does that mean that it is over and can’t ever happen again? NO! It means that you can develop your own VIRTUE PLANNER. By living into those virtuous plans and challenging yourself and family, it can seriously create the space and example for people to make a change in their lives as well!
On last weeks podcast about contemplation, I asked a question. If you knew that you were about to die, and you were okay with it and had time to think, what 3 words would you use to sum up life? I’m not asking that question again, however, it’s good to reflect on it a bit and start a place where you can develop your own list of things that are virtuous in your life. Here are a couple of questions that can help you develop out that list a bit more and will no doubt take some time and contemplation on your part to answer.
- What is your purpose on earth? We all have one, what is yours? It doesn’t matter if your 7 or 70 listening today. We all have a purpose and if you think you missed the boat and it’s too late, the boat just turned around and is coming back to pick you up, start thinking. You’re more than likely going to work this out on your own, so I would encourage you not to lie. You have no one to impress and no reason to lie to yourself. Be honest. Be real. Here is an incredible quote by Rosalynn Carter: “You must accept that you might fail; then, if you do your best and still don’t win, at least you can be satisfied that you’ve tried. If you don’t accept failure as a possibility, you don’t set high goals, you don’t branch out, you don’t try – you don’t take the risk.” So, as I mentioned earlier, REACH FOR THE STARS. What is your purpose on earth?
- What are your values? Another one of those, we all have moments. The serious part in this moment is, do you really know what yours are? Are they written? You have an example I just gave you from Benjamin Franklin, and of course Aristotle, but, what say you? Take time, look at other lists from people and jot down what really sticks out to you the most and develop a list. It doesn’t have to be huge, start with a goal of at least 5 or more. You’ll see that many of the values will come from your purpose. If you have a hard time with the value part, go back to purpose and rethink to see if you have really given that honest answer.
- What are your goals? The Bible is a very clear teacher and one thing that is easy to see is that God is the Author of life. We are taught that he knows the beginning from the end. Isaiah 46:10 says: declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ That being said, seeking God for understanding and wisdom about your goals would be the first place I start. That is another reason I say #GodsGotThis, because if anyone knows what up, it’s God. What are your goals? That is both a current and long term question. Use things you come up with from your purpose and values to help guide you on your goals.
- Hone in on your habits. There is no doubt we all have habits. Many we know and I’m sure there are several you and I may not be aware of at all. What is interesting about our brains is the simple fact that we can change. We can create new and delete old habits. It’s not always easy, but it is possible. I used the word HONE because it means To improve or perfect, usuallyregarding a skill. What habits will you need to get rid of and what new ones will you have to adopt and adapt to to live into your purpose, values and goals? What are some habits you can begin implementing now in small ways to reach a long term goal or goals? Here are a few scriptures to help you go after goals in your life: “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.”
~ 1 Chronicles 4:10
But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.
~ 2 Chronicles 15:7
May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.
~ Psalm 20:4
But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.
~ Psalm 33:11
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
~ Psalm 37:4
- Taylor your time. By being a good steward of your time you are reflecting the most valuable things in life. If a person just nonchalantly goes through the motions it is easily seen by others as what we now call FAKE NEWS. I absolutely loved reading this verse while preparing today’s podcast for you it is in Ecclesiastes 9: 7-9 and again, I’ll read it from The Message it says: Seize life! Eat bread with gusto,
Drink wine with a robust heart. Oh yes—God takes pleasure in your pleasure! Dress festively every morning. Don’t skimp on colors and scarves.
Relish life with the spouse you love Each and every day of your precarious life. Each day is God’s gift. It’s all you get in exchange For the hard work of staying alive. Make the most of each one! Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily! This is your last and only chance at it,
For there’s neither work to do nor thoughts to think In the company of the dead, where you’re most certainly headed. Wow! That is a great way to look at the value of time in our lives and the simple fact that you have but one to live. Live it well!!
Okay, I have put a lot of information out there today, We’ve looked at several examples of virtue, obviously, the best coming from God’s Word is primary and all else is secondary. You will find many incredible resources available to you in defining virtue and values for your life, I would strongly encourage you to find those that honor God and his plan for us all. I am a bit partial to buy old Uncle Ben’s thoughts as it is, they have turned out to be very beneficial for generations of people and I hope they can be of great value to you as you seek to define and develop your own.
For those listening at the podcast site or reading along today at the blog who may be struggling with life in general. It may be a matter of health like I am involved with and in, it could be a matter of emotions. Perhaps you are feeling lost, lonely, depressed and just void. I understand those emotions as well. You’re not alone, as much as you may try to convince yourself that you are, I can promise you, you are not. Sometimes a fresh moment of assessment or reassessment is vital and valuable to hone in on those habits we just talked about. Kill the bad ones and give life to new ones. If after listening today you find yourself encouraged or encouraged enough to start, but just have a hard time getting going, please feel free to reach out to us here at #GodsGotThis and Hope Revealed, we would love to process a bit with you and seek God’s direction in your life. You matter, and because you can make all the difference in the world, we’re all in, YOU might just be what the doctor ordered!!
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Dig in this week, go after those values and virtue in your life and in your families life as well. If you would like a kickstart personal planner like my Uncle Ben used, please email us and we’d be happy to send one out to you for FREE!!
Remember as Paul said to us from God’s heart in Philippians 4:6-9 6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
And that He surely will my friends. Don’t give in, don’t give up and never forget #GodsGotThis!