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The Importance of Cultivating Virtues

‘Virtuous’. ‘Temperance’. ‘Fortitude’. When was the last time you came across these words? Did you find them in an old Hollywood film? A novel of manners, perhaps? Or was it in your religious text?

Surprisingly, these words and their moral implications were found daily in class lessons, popular literature, and media at one time. It was all too common to instill these values in your children and students; to make them better human beings, teach them the consequences of their actions, and most importantly, care about others.

Virtues are not merely decorative words. They form a moral standard for people and reveal the collective consciousness of a society and culture. Understanding and practicing virtue implies wisdom. It gives us an opportunity to strive for something greater, beyond ourselves. The upholding of a universal ideal, one that unites mankind and encourages us all to be and do better. There’s nothing more important to humankind than cultivating virtues.

While we have made significant progress in multiple areas and we can safely say that we live in the best of times, virtues have, unfortunately, taken a backseat. A study conducted by Atlantic reveals that the usage of words related to morality has plummeted in the last decade. Is it any wonder why when we focus more on our careers, incomes, and ourselves? Of course, these are tremendous pursuits, but they shouldn’t replace character.

It’s time to make virtues cool again. Here are a few that we should all strive to acquire:

1. Kindness:

No one virtue is more important than any other. However, if there’s one that every individual should possess, it’s kindness. Without kindness, one can’t even think about moving on to other virtues. It means thinking about other people and being there for them when they need it. Being kind doesn’t require a grand old gesture; all it needs is an individual effort for the good of another person. Is it really that hard?

A forerunner to tolerance and charity, empathy is an extension of kindness. The quality of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is one every human should have. We’re all flawed and fighting our own battles. Let’s make it easier on others by being understanding and considerate. 

2. Courage:

Also called fortitude, it includes both endurance (persisting despite hardship) and enterprise (the ability to see a need and bear the responsibility of fulfilling it for the good of others). Being brave, sacrificing, and having hope for a better future form the core of courage. Just like fortune favors the bold, life favors the courageous.

3. Humility:

Ahh humility. An alien word in a culture full of “Me, Me, Me”. We’re all unique with our own talents, but that doesn’t mean looking down on other people who may not be inclined towards it. Humility is important to ensure gratitude and hard work. Overestimating our own abilities and forever being self-centered is trouble waiting to happen. The trouble with pride is that it’s governed by thoughts, not just action, which makes it harder to overcome. It also corrupts the soul with more vicious vices like arrogance, greed, envy, and selfishness. While it’s tough, the pursuit of being humble is one of the most noble quests a person can embark upon.

4. Temperance:

In a world of instant gratification, the mere utterance of temperance seems to be taboo. While the original meaning of the word may not be so relevant anymore, the principle of self-control is still irreplaceable in multiple areas of life. Life is miserable when we act on whims and give way to every basal urge. Sure, it may be fun at first, but it hurts in the long run. When we’re rooted in self-regulation, we can make better decisions.

5. Positivity:

If the inclusion of this trait on this list surprises you, then you’re not the only one. But in an increasingly chaotic and polarized world, we could all do with a pocket full of sunshine. Being positive doesn’t mean burying your head in the sand, but instead, choosing to see the brighter side and being more wholesome.

Side note: Just as pursuing good values is important, it’s equally crucial to remember that no one is perfect. Don’t hold yourself to an impossible standard, and definitely don’t beat yourself up for falling short at times. It’s a constant journey. You are a wonderful human being and have the potential to be so much more.

Closing Thoughts:

We have made a lot of progress in the 21st century. With advancements in choices, science, and technology, it’s a great time to be alive. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t still look back at the past, especially to learn from it. Virtues never go out of style, and it’s time we took a trip down memory lane and a good look inwards. Let’s make the world better by becoming better people and inspiring others to do the same. Lots of love.

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