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Does Anybody Really Care About Virtue

Updated on May 12, 2009

Virtue is a Timeless Gift

An old sampler found in a museum in Newfoundland which was stitched in 1813 reads, “Virtue is the chiefest beauty of the mind, the noblest ornament of humankind.  Virtue is our safeguard and our guiding star that stirs up reason when our senses err.” 


Virtue Sampler

“Virtue does not come from wealth, but. . . wealth, and every other good thing which men have. . . comes from virtue.”  Socrates
“Virtue does not come from wealth, but. . . wealth, and every other good thing which men have. . . comes from virtue.” Socrates

“Virtue is not knowing but doing” Japanese Proverb

Virtue is more than being chaste; it is a pattern of thought and behavior that is based on high moral standards. It is a combination of the heart and the mind as thousands of decisions and actions are made in a lifetime of choices. Virtue is the moral compass that directs an individual when no one is there to see. Virtue is a state of living.

The word virtue is a form of the Latin root word virtus, which means strength. I believe that virtue is the inner strength that can be seen through the quiet dignity of the possessor. Virtue is the ability one has to actually "stand for something."

“The power of a man's virtue should not be measured by his special efforts, but by his ordinary doing” Blaise Pascal

“Virtue is a state of war, and to live in it we have always to combat with ourselves.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau

When one thinks of virtues an association may be made relating them to the opposing forces of the “Seven Deadly Sins” from Dante’s epic poem The Divine Comedy. These seven vices are contrasted with seven heavenly virtues.

  • Lust – Chastity
  • Gluttony- Temperance
  • Greed- Charity
  • Sloth- Diligence
  • Wrath- Patience
  • Envy- Kindness
  • Pride- Humility

Virtue works from William J. Bennett

The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories
The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories
The author draws upon a variety of literature ranging from biblical stories to political legends and speeches to illustrate the catalog of virtues--self-discipline, compassion, work, responsibility, friendship, courage, perseverance, honesty, loyalty, faith--that he believes are foundational to strong moral character.

Virtue A Need For Society

Back in 1990’s you may remember there was an author that burst on the scene named William J. Bennett who called out to society with this accusation:

“Virtues are not taken seriously as they used to be, either by teachers or by parents or by people making public policy and, therefore, by children. But it used to be understood by people who ran universities and who ran schools that the major purpose of education was moral improvement.”

To combat the state he perceived our society to be in at the time he compiled many selections from great literature into an anthology designed to help both children and adults understand the meaning of virtue and develop stronger character.

Virtue Book Sales Hit the Roof

He titled his first book simply, The Book of Virtues. His description of the work was as follows:

“One of the risks of giving this thing a title The Book of Virtues is that people think, ‘Oh, this is going to be sort of namby-pamby stuff.’” But, he argues, “This is hard stuff. This is real stuff. There is a lot in here about being born and dying and suffering and sacrificing. This was the stuff in which kids were raised. It’s not the feel-good stuff of today. There are no lessons in here to have self-esteem, just to feel good about yourself because you’re a nice person. The lessons in here are you should have regard for yourself because you’re made in the image of God and you should have regard for yourself if you’ve earned it, if you’ve done something right. They were not less realistic in the old days; they were more realistic.”

The book was an instant success, and he produced more to follow. The need for a return to virtue was recognized and the public opinion expressed in the form of book sales was phenomenal.

Is it time once again to "return to virtue"?

Over the years William J. Bennett did not prove to be able to uphold the virtues he so eloquently believed in. He succumbed to vices that tarnished his reputation and credibility. Such is the plight of the natural man, imperfect and in need of change constantly. But the literature he compiled fulfilled a need for society as a whole. That was almost twenty years ago. Is it time we take a look at the past and once again “return to virtue” one more time?

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” C.S. Lewis

In a frightfully astute prophecy President Theodore Roosevelt stated, “Americanism means the virtues of courage, honor, justice, truth, sincerity, and hardihood—the virtues that made America. The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living and the get-rich-quick theory of life.”

His insightful warning could be a description of our society today and the problems we face in society as a whole.

Is the remedy for what ails society today simply a return to virtue once again?

Virtue- "Yes We Can"

Many voices can be heard shouting the need for change. Change is the only constant thing in this world today. Perhaps an effort toward virtuous living is the strength our society needs. This starts with the individual first. The only real thing a person can change is them self!

“Search others for their virtues, thy self for thy vices” Benjamin Franklin

  • “Just as treasures are uncovered from the earth, so virtue appears from good deeds, and wisdom appears from a pure and peaceful mind. To walk safely through the maze of human life, one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue.”- Buddha

  • “Virtue is more clearly shown in the performance of fine actions than in the nonperformance of base ones.”- Aristotle 


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    • My Esoteric profile image

      Scott Belford 

      10 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      Wonderful hub, we need more of them as America seems to wandering away from it's ideal and weakening the fabric of our country in the process. John Adams said "Public virtue cannot exist in a Nation without private Virtue, and public Virtue is the only Foundation of Republics.” The way things are going today, I would say our foundation is crumbling.

    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      12 years ago from California

      logic, commonsense,

      Hi and thanks for your additional insights...I totally agree with you that your amount of virtue depends upon the desire you have to live virtuously. And, yes, we have had some really bad examples of self vs. virtue and can see what we do not want to become.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      12 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Hi Diana, I love reading this thought-provoking hub. I too believe that if we are able to live a life in awareness of the virtues of patience, kindness, humility, temperance, diligence, chastity and charity, life will be so much better for ourselves and for those around us. Thank you so much for the reminder.

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      If you are brought up around virtue and taught the value, shown the examples, you should have some virtue yourself. How much, the depth and the extent depends on what your character, your personality desires.

      However virtue by itself is not necessarily a true measure of one's self. We have seen many examples of that in the recent past.

    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      12 years ago from California


      I agree that parents can play a pivotal role in teaching virtue, but at some point even if you did not receive that training as a child, you simply must decide for yourself if virtue is important to you. The optimum situation is for parents to teach, but it is never too late to learn and practice.

    • profile image

      Samantha Rhodes 

      12 years ago

      I completly agree with you, I think it starts with your parents.

    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      12 years ago from California


      I have to agree with you.. so much about self-esteem and not enough about being good. A return back to teaching the basic virtues such as honesty, self-discipline, compassion and responsibility would be a refreshing change!

    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      12 years ago from California


      Peer pressure is a definite factor that influences most people, and the way they behave. Perhaps if more individuals, who desired virtuous living, would stand up to that way of belief, more would feel positive peer pressure "join the group". It only takes one strong enough to make a stand and more will follow. Thanks for your comment.

    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      12 years ago from California


      Truly a profound statement made by a wonderful man. As a member of the LDS Church, this is one of the 13 Articles of Faith penned by the Prophet Joseph Smith. Virtue is very much a sought after quality. Thanks.

    • The How To Hub profile image

      The How To Hub 

      12 years ago from Australia

      Thumbs up here. What a wonderful thought provoking hub. I liked the review of Bennetts's book where he is quoted as saying "This was the stuff in which kids were raised. It’s not the feel-good stuff of today. There are no lessons in here to have self-esteem, just to feel good about yourself because you’re a nice person." ...makes it sound like a refreshing perspective in comparison to the current parenting advice books.

    • profile image

      Willis Whitlock 

      12 years ago

      Thank you for this post. I find that virtue is privately popular among many of the young people I work with. That is, they think they will not be popular for expressing a desire to be virtuous. Though, they privately admire the virtues. The tragedy is when the give up those ideals because "everybody is doing it."

    • foodstorage profile image


      12 years ago from Utah

      "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy ... we seek after these things."

      Thanks for the reminder!

    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      12 years ago from California


      Thank you for your added comments, I value your opinion and know that you continually strive to promote virtue and honor. I think we as the American people may need to take a hard look at ourselves and step up to the plate when it comes to virtuous living. It needs to be a bigger priority, but it can happen!

    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      12 years ago from California


      I have to agree that William J. Bennett did make quite a killing on his books, but I do think that they have a lot of valuable teaching information in them as well. I believe you are correct in your statement of virtue. Man has the ability to rise to the potential he has been given and live a virtuous life! Have a wonderful day!

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 

      12 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Big big thumbs up for this one, doghouse. I think that virtue is making a comeback in these difficult times-- I can kind of feel it happening and I say it's about time that character makes a comeback both for individuals and nations. I was very impressed by a President Obama who could say on National TV " I screwed up" Truth is virtue and virtue is truth --and this is a great hub:-)

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Marshall 

      12 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Its not popular to write about virtue, is it (unless you're Bill Bennett - LOL). I have to applaud you for publishing a hub on this important topic. Virtue is one of the things that separates and elevates us from mere animals. Cheers, Steph

    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      12 years ago from California


      Thanks for your words of encouragement. I believe that the future generations do rest in our hands and we simply must heed the cry for a return to virtue. It is as important as being "green" is to our planet. Virtuous living will change the earth one person at a time!

    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      12 years ago from California


      Thank you. We ALL have much to ponder when it come to virtue and how we are living a virtuous life. We ALL have much change we can make.

    • funride profile image

      Ricardo Nunes 

      12 years ago from Portugal

      I hope you`re wrong about not being a popular hub because we have been living on immoral times (don´t get me wrong, I´m not a radical moralist but there must be limits). If you ask me the only way to change things is having parents and grandparents teaching (and practicing) the newest generations some of the virtues that has been almost lost in the last decades. It´s not an easy task but someone has to start it and you have done it very well ;)

    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      12 years ago from California

      Uninvited Writer,

      I believe that virtue can cover a lot of ground. Everyone does indeed define it differently, but practicing whatever one defines as virtue would be a great change in a positive direction for sure. I like the definition you attached to it too!

    • Teresa McGurk profile image


      12 years ago from The Other Bangor

      Great hub -- my favorite sins are sloth and gluttony, so you've given me plenty to ponder.

    • Uninvited Writer profile image

      Susan Keeping 

      12 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

      Excellent hub. I believe everyone can define what virtue means to them. To me it means being true to your ideals and thinking of others.

    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      12 years ago from California

      Earth Angel,

      I am so glad you believe that virtue is important today, even as you stated "more than ever." I am sure this will not be a popular Hub, but it is something I felt I needed to write.

      The sampler I am referring to is not the one pictured, I couldn't find the picture of the exact one...

    • Earth Angel profile image

      Earth Angel 

      12 years ago

      GREAT GREAT GREAT Hub IntheDogHouse!!

      Of course Virtue counts!! Now, more than ever!! So glad you agree!! And that you put words behind your beliefs!!

      Blessings always, Earth Angel!!

      P.S. I think the last word in the sampler is "jar!!??"


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