Virtues: Why Are They Important?

Apr 14, 2022

There is a common language known by everyone on the planet that influences human behaviour.  It’s a little like gravity.  Everyone experiences it.  A few try to defy it… but then gravity always seems to do its job.

Virtue is the common language for understanding the kind of human character and resulting behavior that keeps humanity united where we can create civil societies for human flourishing.

Virtues are historically referred to as the higher values that describe character and govern our behaviour.  One could say that Virtues are “Identity or Character Values” and other Values could be referred to as “Activity Values”.  Both are important but the chicken clearly came before the egg.

Different cultures, families, businesses and communities will have different  “Activity Values” but the “Identity Values” have remained consistent throughout recorded history.  This common understanding crosses all of the boundaries of race, class, colour, creed, sexual orientation, family history and national origin.  Even the theists and atheists agree on the value of virtue although they may disagree on the origin. Virtue crosses the boundaries that normally bring separation and in its place there remains a foundation of unity allowing a starting place for the most important conversations.

We would all like our children, globally, to be Courageous, Humble and Moderate.  Every parent would teach them to be Honest and develop a sound, consistent character with Integrity.  We would like them to be Peace, Loving and Charitable, and as they mature, Wise Gracious, Loving and Merciful are descriptions we would choose for them, with great Hope for a Just and civil society where all are honoured. In summary we want them to be Good and Loving people.

We want this to be true for our family, friends, those in our communities and the people we work with.  Seeing these character qualities grow and be practiced and experienced can change a culture.

The story of human history has seen a battle for virtuous character formation and practice.  At the same time we struggle with the forces that entice us to act in ways that oppose the embrace of virtuous behaviour.

We all know the struggle surrounding unhealthy ego when we find ourselves reaching for validation through fame, fortune and influence.  History shows us again and again that when we don’t have the “Strength of Character” required to manage the forces of these powerful influences, they will destroy us.

I spend much of my time working with business leaders who all agree on these basic concepts surrounding Virtue and it’s importance in creating sustainable multigenerational businesses.  For example, no one wants to hire someone with inconsistent honesty or a lack of integrity yet we often shy away from the direct conversations around these deeply human concepts in our businesses.

There is increasing agreement that business’s can actually have a virtuous character.  It is this character that sustains a business through all of the challenging times.

If we can first separate “Identity Values” from “Activity Values” we could start to consider our personal and corporate identity more clearly, as it informs all of our activity.

There are many lists of Virtues that do not have common agreement across all the boundaries of culture or faith groups for example.  However, I think everyone on the planet commonly understands the Virtues below.

Review the following list and ask if you would like to remove any of these Virtues or Identity Values from the Character of your children, family, friends or co-workers.

  • Humility
  • Courage
  • Integrity
  • Grace
  • Hope
  • Justice
  • Wisdom
  • Goodness
  • Peace
  • Love
  • Moderation
  • Honesty
  • Mercy
  • Faith
  • Patience

I think we would all like to be associated with people and businesses and live in communities who embody this list of Virtues.

I would invite you to consider refocusing our character, and the character of our businesses and communities, back to something we’ve always known.

Join me in the great journey of virtuous character formation that has built the story of humanity down through the ages.