Why virtue matters

virtue mattersEven when it hurts, it’s good.

New research from the University of Notre Dame found that people can purposefully and dramatically reduce their everyday occurrences of lying, and in doing so, significantly improve their physical health.

Not only that, the “Science of Honesty” study also revealed that truth-tellers improved their interpersonal relationships and enjoyed smoother social interactions than when they used to whitewash their lives with lies.

Well, whadayaknow?

Slippery as the truth can be, it’s absolutely better applied than denied.

In the workplace, corporate values are often on-topic when casting visions and fashioning mission statements. And, when agreed upon and practiced, are effective guideposts in shaping policies, programs and procedures.

But defining values for personal and corporate gain comes with intrinsic dangers. Take for instance the much-bantered-about “Family Values.”  Whose are we talking about? “Traditional” Family Values? Gay and Lesbian Family Values? Addams Family Values? Obviously, there are as many values as there are individuals and circumstances.

Despite how noble the term seems, values are relative and subject to variation and interpretation.  They are certainly not universally applicable. How about the value of Tolerance? Seems fair, sounds good, right? But only when practiced judiciously! Should we be equally tolerant of artistic expression as human trafficking? So values are and must be fluid for an individual, a work team or a society to function successfully. But to build on bedrock and absolutely flourish requires embracing not just values, but virtues.

Virtues aren’t some quaint holdovers from the Victoria Era. And they may not be in vogue. But by their very nature, virtues are universal and absolute standards that do not change with circumstances, time, or point of view. When practiced, they always support moral excellence and collective well-being.

Unlike disputable values, virtues of self-control, courage, patience, perseverance, persistence, compassion, kindness, gratitude, courtesy, dependability, and integrity (among dozens of others) are always profitable for mind, body and spirit, as the Notre Dame study on honesty begins to quantify.

Truth be told, virtues matter in every leadership decision, every personal relationship, every strategic plan, every course of action. When you exemplify virtuous character:

  • You model trustworthy principles and promote the same advantageous and healthy behaviors in those you lead.
  • You stimulate intellectual development, professional competence and corporate responsibility in your spheres of influence.
  • Your customers, clients, colleagues, and even your competitors notice and respect your worth.
  • You can recover more quickly and fully from missteps and mistakes.
  • You strengthen and solidify beneficial and profitable habits.
  • You can overcome the negative effects of self-centeredness, ignorance, arrogance, poisonous attitudes and unethical behaviors around you.
  • You exert influence over your own personal and professional future.
  • You avoid moral entrapments and legal troubles.
  • Your career will flourish and you will prosper physically, mentally, socially and spiritually.
  • You build an enduring legacy of worthy accomplishments and transformational results for those who follow.
  • You become a respected difference-maker in your family, your company, your profession, your community, and your world: Honest!

MasterPoint: Virtues matter.

3 thoughts on “Why virtue matters

  1. Amy Leap says:

    I have spent a fair amount of time reading and rereading your post about virtues and I do agree it is a key to becoming the best you can be, but I often feel the big picture is hopeless. To have virtue, you must be raised in an environment that fosters values …….and that doesn’t seem to be popular in parenting today. After reading the replies to a question I put out to parents – Do you think you are a cool parent and why? – I no longer wonder why this generation does the things they do or why. There doesn’t seem to be any moral yardstick anymore.
    My question to you is, how do you instill virtues in a society
    that has so few core values?

    • Amy,
      Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

      It’s been flatly declared that you can’t legislate morality! But its opposite can also be persuasively argued – that it is the only thing we can! We create laws, and we can enforce them to a degree, but we can’t change someone’s heart by decree.

      Morality is an internal compass. It works best in a willing soul, where its directional guidance is most efficiently absorbed, and in turn displayed in an external lifestyle.

      I am what I believe on the inside. And only from that starting position can I hope to influence others.

      I agree: Society is deathly ill, and doesn’t even know it. To heal it, when it doesn’t even care for its own welfare, is an overwhelming task.

      Yet it is the pinprick of light that defines the darkness. It is the pinch of yeast that rises the bread. It is the individual virtue that effects societal change. And it is the spark of hope that dares to believe.

      Don Quixote, the woeful knight-errant in Man of La Mancha, expresses the quest so elegantly:

      To dream … the impossible dream …
      To fight … the unbeatable foe …
      To bear … with unbearable sorrow …
      To run … where the brave dare not go …
      To right … the unrightable wrong …
      To love … pure and chaste from afar …
      To try … when your arms are too weary …
      To reach … the unreachable star …

      This is my quest, to follow that star …
      No matter how hopeless, no matter how far …
      To fight for the right, without question or pause …
      To be willing to march into Hell, for a Heavenly cause …

      And I know if I’ll only be true, to this glorious quest,
      That my heart will lie will lie peaceful and calm,
      When I’m laid to my rest …
      And the world will be better for this:
      That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
      Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
      To reach … the unreachable star …

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