Reclaiming Virtue: Living Honestly to Honestly Live

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What does virtue mean to you?

What does virtue mean to you?

VIRTUE, from the Latin virtus, is moral excellence.

Virtue is:

  • excellent ethics
  • high-minded honor
  • incorruptible innocence
  • meritorious morality
  • perfect prudence
  • righteous rectitude
  • total trustworthiness

Matthew 12:35 tells us that “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings forth good things.”

In Discourses, Epictetus wrote,

If virtue promises good fortune and tranquility and happiness, certainly also the progress towards virtue is progress towards each of these things.”

Virtue is the alignment of one’s life to principles that lead one to being great.

Aristotle described human flourishing as rational activity in accordance with virtue, something he viewed as a balance between extremes.

Seneca, the Roman Stoic, perceived virtue to be the same as prudence, the wise use of discretion.

Virtue is also an admirable quality to possess, such as the virtue of knowing one’s own faults.

Thomas Jefferson said,

Whenever you are to do a thing, though it can never be known but to yourself, ask yourself how you would act were all the world looking at you, and act accordingly.”


In ancient philosophy, cardinal virtues were regarded as fortitude, justice, prudence and temperance.

Theological virtues, also called graces are known as FAITH, HOPE and LOVE. As you know, the greatest of these is love.

In Psychomachia (Spiritual Combat,) Aurelius Prudentius Clemens outlined the struggle for the soul of man; the battle between various virtues and vices.

What he called the Heavenly Virtues were:

  1. CHARITY (benevolence, generosity and goodwill) battles against GREED.
  2. CHASTITY (honesty, knowledge and wisdom) fights with LUST.
  3. DILIGENCE (ethics, persistence and rectitude) labors against SLOTH.
  4. HUMILITY (bravery, reverence and selflessness) combats PRIDE.
  5. KINDNESS (compassion, integrity and loyalty) opposes ENVY.
  6. PATIENCE (mercy and peace) wages war with WRATH.
  7. TEMPERANCE (honor, justice and self-control) clashes with GLUTTONY.

It seems the battle continues. People possess innate intelligence, but they do not always live by moral intelligence, which would have them do the right thing at the right time for the right reason.

Cultural complacency may be a reason, but I think the issues go deeper than this.  For one thing, goodness and righteousness are not genetic.

People are often afraid to speak up against an injustice because they:

  • fear reprisal or retaliation.
  • fear being ostracized, being labelled a whistle blower or a ‘goody two-shoes.’
  • view it as an exercise in futility, that nothing will come of their complaint.

Or they simply do not speak up because they think, “It’s not my problem.”

Yet others do possess the COURAGE required to make a difference.

2 Peter 1:3 tells us that “God has given us everything we need to live a godly life.” But to do so requires courage.

C.S. Lewis said,

Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.

In his book Reclaiming Virtue, John Bradshaw, he tells how Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson set his helicopter down in the middle of a war crime in My Lai, Vietnam to rescue innocent civilians who were going to be systematically slaughtered by US troops. He spoke out against the atrocity, but was told to mind his own business.
Thirty years later the truth of the massacres were uncovered. More rewarding to him than the Soldier’s Medal he received, was meeting the man, Do Hoa, the 4 year old boy he had rescued.

This is one of many excellent examples the author cites of those having the courage of their convictions to do the right thing.

What virtues are most important for YOU to live by?

Please share your thoughts here. Thank you kindly!

Have a tremendous day, friends!

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About Bill Butler

William A. Butler is a John C.Maxwell certified coach. He loves to add value to others and aspiring to be a great humanitarian, lives by four words: BE LOVE TO OTHERS.
William often goes by “Bill” and is a poet, a songwriter and has an upcoming novel.

8 thoughts on “Reclaiming Virtue: Living Honestly to Honestly Live

  1. Bill,
    Excellent post on Virtue. I like the fact that you brought up the word from it’s Latin origin and then connected with the topic in an excellent manner. Thank you for sharing!
    Kumar Gauraw recently posted…Why Popular Career Advices Are Usually Deceptive In RealityMy Profile

  2. Hi Kumar,

    I’ve loved Latin for years because, in most cases, gives us the origins of words, which I delight in.

    When it comes to virtue, meaning honor and integrity, did you know that there are 43 words that are synonyms?

    Galatians 5:22-23 also point out various virtues known as ‘the fruit of the Spirit’; those being love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithful, gentleness and self-control.

    Kind Regards,
    William Butler recently posted…Reclaiming Virtue: Living Honestly to Honestly Live My Profile

  3. Integrity and honesty: the components of virtue. Yes, there is no law against love, compassion, patience, purity…- they are already pronounced “blessed”.
    Thank you Bill for yet another illuminating post.

  4. Timely and thought provoking!

    • Greetings Ime,

      I think that we often get wrapped up in the daily affairs of life, and in doing so,
      can overlook the important matters of life, such as contemplating values and virtue.

      Glad you’ve got some food for thought.

      Warm Regards,

  5. I’ve really enjoyed this blog post, Bill. Wow, the story about Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson is very inspiring!

    To me, virtue is moral/spiritual strength. (Kindness is one that especially resonates for me.) I like what John Milton wrote about virtue (I believe in “Paradise Lost”): “What is virtue without temptation?” Absolutely nothing, of course.

    In British Columbia, a woman from Salt Spring Island named Linda Kavelin-Popov, along with her husband and brother, created the “Virtues Project” for schools. Are you familiar with it? It’s mostly used at the elementary level but I used some of the material when I taught high school. Truly wonderful.

    Thank your for sharing this thoughtful blog, Bill.
    Ramona McKean recently posted…Tribute to Teresa Teng, Jan. 29, 1953 – May 8, 1995My Profile

    • Welcome Ramona,
      Yes, it is extraordinary what inner reserves we can call upon when it comes down to it.
      I agree with your definition of virtue. Of course, everything in life has its corollary.

      I had not heard of Linda Kavelin-Popov or Virtues Project, but I thank you kindly for drawing her and the project to my attention.
      Your very welcome Ramona. Thank you for taking time to share your thoughts. Much appreciated!

      Kind Regards,

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