Thursday, July 8, 2010

What is Your Virtue of Choice?

Are there certain qualities you hope your children will have as they grow up? As parents of special needs children, I think we all hope our children will become good self-advocates. But what else? What other virtues do you hope to instill in your children as you raise them?

(pictured right is the statue titled "Personification of Virtue" (Greek ἀρετή) in Celsus Library in Ephesos, Turkey)

I did a little research on the topic of virtues.

First, I wanted a good definition of the word virtue. Here is what I found:

Virtue (Latin virtus; Greek ἀρετή) is moral excellence. A virtue is a character trait or quality valued as being always good in and of itself. Personal virtues are characteristics valued as promoting individual and collective well being.

I like that one, especially the part about promoting individual and collective well being.

I was already familiar with the Catholic definition of virtue given my upbringing in the church. The church defines seven virtues, and the one that is most important to me is humility. The Catholic Catechism defines humility as “Modest behavior, selflessness, and the giving of respect. The courage of the heart necessary to undertake tasks which are difficult, tedious or unglamorous, and to graciously accept the sacrifices involved. Reverence for those who have wisdom and those who selflessly teach in love. Giving credit where credit is due; not unfairly glorifying one's own self. Being faithful to promises, no matter how big or small they may be. Refraining from despair and the ability to confront fear and uncertainty, or intimidation. “

That definitely summed up what I hope to instill in my children.

A little more research led me to Benjamin Franklin and his list of 13 virtues. His original list only included 12 virtues, but he was led to add a 13th – humility:

"My list of virtues contain'd at first but twelve; but a Quaker friend having kindly informed me that I was generally thought proud; that my pride show'd itself frequently in conversation; that I was not content with being in the right when discussing any point, but was overbearing, and rather insolent, of which he convinc'd me by mentioning several instances; I determined endeavouring to cure myself, if I could, of this vice or folly among the rest, and I added Humility to my list."

Then I found one more definition that I liked the most:

Being humble is considering others as important as yourself. You are thoughtful of their needs and willing to be of service. You don’t expect others or yourself to be perfect. You learn from your mistakes. When you do great things, humility reminds you to be thankful instead of boastful.

Yes, I feel I will have done a good job as a parent if humility is a virtue my children learn to practice and cherish. And while this statement may not reflect humility on my part, I believe I am well on my way at instilling that virtue in my children’s lives.

I am proud of what they have become and look forward to what they will still accomplish.

What about you? What virtues are important to you, especially for instilling in your children?

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