Before you read this article, stop for a second…what do you think the word virtue means? Ok, now hold that thought…we’ll come back to it in a bit.
Are we a society lacking in virtue? I was listening to a webinar about our shadow side this morning and the speakers said we are no longer a society that trusts people. It used to be that a person’s word meant something and a handshake sealed a deal. Nowadays, we’re considered foolish if we believe what someone says. The speakers went on to discuss how we need to be cultivating virtue in our society.
When the webinar was over I kept thinking about the word virtue. I thought about how I never use it and I couldn’t think of the last time I heard anyone else (before the webinar) use it. I googled the word. No surprise, there are many definitions, but generally it refers to someone showing high moral standards and who is honest, respectful, courageous, forgiving, kind and trustworthy. Has virtue gone out of style or just the word? Maybe it’s semantics; maybe I use a synonym for virtue instead. Like integrity. I like that word and use it fairly often.
I also kept thinking about the lack of trust in our society, —in our personal lives, in the work place, and definitely on television with ads that are blatantly false, and, maybe most sadly, in our public leaders who seem to perpetually tell mistruths. Watching the news, advertisements and listening to many politicians speak, is often an exercise in reading between the lines, wondering what’s being left out, and frankly, knowing that lies are being told. Recently there has been some satisfaction in seeing some public figures (ie. Alex Jones) being caught in their lies. But what must it do to our society collectively to not expect people to tell the truth, to not know who or what to trust?
I think it’s an important question and one worthy of discussion. I don’t have the answers or even a whole lot of insight about it except to say that we don’t have control over other people and as is so often the case, maybe the best thing we can do is to look inward and ask the same questions of ourselves before we feel self-righteous and point fingers at others. Are we people others can trust? Do we display attributes of virtue? Doesn’t it feel nice when you know you’re around someone you can trust, someone whom you know will be there for you, who has your back, and who will be honest with you? Are you that kind of person for others?
In personal relationships, trust is integral in fostering intimacy. We all want to feel connected. Hopefully you’re surrounded with people whom you trust. Are you? Do you have friends and colleagues that you can call anytime and know that they will be there for you and that they will be honest and hold your confidences? I hope so. I just don’t think it’s a given anymore. Again, maybe more importantly, are you that person for others?
Back to your thoughts on the word virtue. Are they what I’ve been writing about? I would love to know. It seems to me that whether the word virtue is becoming old-fashioned or maybe even obsolete, or not, the values it portends are important and are ones that we must foster if we want to see a better world. Would you agree?
2 responses to “What does virtue mean to you?”
Integrity was also the word that came to mind for me! Honesty is a huge part of integrity. We need more honesty and more trust in society. Just thinking about the news, it seems like any information I consume needs multiple corroborations before I can really trust it. It can be disorientating. I think that reality gas cultivated a culture of distrust which has led to the popularity of ridiculous conspiracy theorists.
I hope virtue isn’t obsolete. I don’t think it is. Maybe we’ve lost sight of why its valuable.
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I really resonated with your response, especially “Maybe we’ve lost sight of why it’s valuable.” Then I thought, wait, why is it valuable? I wonder if we can all agree on reasons why virtue is valuable?