What Makes Us Morally Good: Examples of Virtues

What Makes Us Morally Good: Examples of Virtues

Examples of virtues

From ancient Greece and China to the spiritual teachings of Sikhism, discover examples of virtues, the character strengths that enable us to do the right thing.

Virtues are personal qualities and character traits that are considered admirable by society.

The concept dates back to the 4th century BC when it was pioneered by the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle. Nine centuries later, the Roman poet Aurelius Clemens Prudentius adapted the concept and created a list of seven examples of virtues according to Christian teachings of the time.

Despite its deep, centuries-long ties to Christianity, the idea of virtue isn’t exclusive to any religion. In fact, many don’t see virtue as a religious concept at all, but rather as a philosophical one.

In this article, we will discuss the main examples of virtues from both religious and secular teachings.

What Are Some Examples of Virtues?

The top 10 human virtues according to the ancient Greeks are:

  • Justice.
  • Wisdom.
  • Fortitude.
  • Self-control.
  • Positive attitude.
  • Love.
  • Gratitude.
  • Perseverance.
  • Integrity.
  • Humility.

Here’s what they actually mean:

  • Justice. The act of respecting every individual’s rights.
  • Wisdom. The ability to make rational, well-thought-out decisions.
  • Fortitude. The ability to do the right thing when faced with difficulty.
  • Self-control. The ability to manage one’s temper, passions, and urges.
  • Positive attitude. A mix of hope, optimism, and enthusiasm.
  • Love. The willingness to make sacrifices for the good of others.
  • Gratitude. Being thankful for the things we have in life.
  • Perseverance. The determination to work hard toward our goals.
  • Integrity. The act of standing up for our beliefs.
  • Humility. The ability to put our strengths to use without showing off.

What Are Some Moral Virtues?

Some authors make the distinction between performance virtues and moral virtues.

Moral virtues are those that are closely concerned with the good, as opposed to being valued without being necessarily good or necessarily bad. For example, while some schools of thought see physical fitness as a virtue, it is by no means a moral one.

On the other hand, patience, responsibility, and courage are all moral values because they are designed to serve a good purpose.

The difference between the two types of virtues can be summed up in one sentence: while moral virtues are about doing the right thing, performance virtues are solely about doing things right.

What Are the 12 Virtues?

Across the ten volumes of “Nicomachean Ethics”, his best-known work, Aristotle cites the 12 virtues that are found in people with a strong character.

He sees each of the virtues as the middle ground between two extremes – deficiency and excess. The 12 virtues according to Aristotle are:

  1. Courage
  2. Temperance
  3. Magnanimity
  4. Liberality
  5. Magnificence
  6. Patience
  7. Truthfulness
  8. Wittiness
  9. Friendliness
  10. Justice
  11. Modesty
  12. Ambition

The inclusion of ambition on the list of virtues has been the subject of a long-standing debate.

In fact, to avoid confusion, Aristotle makes the distinction between unhealthy and healthy ambition. Healthy ambition is a moderate pursuit of success. Unhealthy ambition is an immoderate striving for success.

12 virtues

What Are the 5 Virtues?

Confucianism is often seen as both a religion and a system of philosophical teachings. It has its own set of virtues that date back to the 5th or 6th century BC. These include:

  • ren (benevolence)
  • yi (honesty)
  • zhi (knowledge)
  • xin (integrity)
  • li (politeness and worship)

Sikhism, a religion founded in the 15th century on the spiritual teachings of Guru Nanak, also recognizes five fundamental virtues that bring people closer to God. They are Sat (truthful living), Nimrata (humility), Santokh (contentment), Daya (compassion), and Pyaar (love of God).

Virtues aren’t innate; they aren’t given to us by birth. Instead, we acquire them over the course of our lives and develop them through practice. If we fail to use virtue regularly, we may lose it.

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Written by
Irina Yugay