So, what, exactly, is virtue?

I know what it means for me, but I didn’t know if people felt the same way about that word as I feel. To me, it’s a very beautiful word. I love everything that it means to me. In Proverbs, we read, “A virtuous woman is more precious than rubies.” How beautiful is that?!

But I also felt like maybe it could sound like a harsh word to some, or that it sounded judgmental maybe. So I wasn’t really sure about using it, but again I knew I had to. So I asked a few of the people that I have come to know and love, and I learned a thing or two:

  • No matter what faith these people belonged to that I talked to, most of them feel the same way about the word as I do, so that made me feel better about incorporating it into my mission statement. One friend said, “It’s cultivating a God confidence.” She continued, “I know I’m not perfect. I know that I will be tempted to do things I should not do, but it is my belief and faith in God that can keep me stronger by keeping my high values, morals, and integrity, which kind of connects to me. I feel like virtue is just knowing who you are and where you come from and what you stand for and not falling from that.”
  • When I asked one of my male friends, he answered from a different perspective. He said that he feels like the word “virtue” could be taken wrong by some people. It’s not necessarily the word, just the way word is used.

I love words. I love when one word can open a whole realm of thought. That’s one why I enjoy language and culture so much—different experiences and philosophies can add a whole new level of understanding to a word. In the same respect, through a lack of similar experiences or the ability to understand different cultures, words can be kind of a barrier between people as well. Different language backgrounds and different culture backgrounds bring different levels of meanings to the words we speak. In addition, we have different experiences that define what the word means inside of ourselves. So if virtue, for example, was used as a word of shame, maybe, then people would feel differently about it than if it were used in the context of “more precious than rubies.” For me, virtue is a beautiful word.

After my friend explained his point of view, he added, “Instead of explaining, ask others’ opinions; first seek to understand and then to be understood.” That prompted me to do some research to define what virtue means to people from several different cultures and background to discover if there was a common ground. One thing that I’ve really come to understand is that there is truth in all things. The way I look at it, we all came from the same source, and so we all came from truth. Truth originated as one big whole. It was all that there was.

As people began to expand and to spread across the world, truth became diluted, in much the same way as what happens in a game of “gossip.” It makes sense, then, that there’s an element of truth in every culture.

One quote I discovered in my research is “virtue is a pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards.” To me, that is basically the definition of virtue. I also found that virtue means strength, compassion, and ethics. It means tradition. It means generosity and honesty, wisdom, courage, justice, tolerance, good speech, respect, purity, courtesy, long suffering. … and this is according to Buddhism, Hinduism, Chinese religions, Taoism, Confucianism, and Christianity, as well as Judaism, and Islam.

All of these cultures use these similar words to describe virtue.

From this we can begin to understand how, even if the word virtue might not mean the same in a single individual’s mind, in the broader, more expanded picture of things, it really does mean the same thing, and that’s what I want to share. When we can connect to that, that’s when we can really connect to our power and our purpose through our understanding of who we are. All of these words describe core values, and having core values is what virtue is all about.