WoW 061: On virtues [Words of Wisdom]

Wisdom is virtuous skill in living.

Virtue is behavior showing high moral standards.

Virtues are relatively constant, enduring, and interconnected behavior traits of moral character.

These are relatively predictable dispositions of character.

You don't know unless you do, and you don't give unless you receive.

Virtue requires knowledge and awareness. You don't do virtuous things if you do not know what good looks like.

Virtue is also something you repeatedly do, so virtue is a skill that can be developed with effort over time through various practices.

Virtue is grounded in relationships. We grow in character when we see the examples of others, and we grow when we are loved.

Suffering is a powerful motivator to grow in virtue. Love is greater, still.

Core virtues

My current best thinking is that there are core virtues: a set of fundamental, interconnected virtues that make up a flourishing life.

I have identified 25 core virtues, composed of five themes, with five virtues connected to each theme.

The themes are love, purity, courage, knowledge, and transcendence.

There is nothing more important than growing in virtue. Your virtue, or moral character, is more important than your external success.

Virtue is the foundation from which all else stands, the soil from which value is created in the world.

Virtue can be grown in the following ways.

  • Develop virtues through reflection. Sometimes learning new ideas, thinking about one's life, and setting an intention leads to transformation.
  • Develop virtues through practice. Sometimes you must live your way into a new way of thinking. You only know what you do. You can intentionally practice growing in virtue. Practicing being honest leads to more honesty. Practicing being courageous leads to more courage.
  • Develop virtues through friendships. We grow by seeing others model, intentionally or not, how we want to live. We grow through shared attention, shared focus, and knowing and being known. Sometimes we change how we see ourselves and others simply because we experience someone's love and kindness, not because we do anything to deserve that love.
  • Develop virtues through feedback. Search tirelessly for self-deception, a fate worse than death! When self-deceived about how virtuous you are, you are trapped in a lie without knowing it, incapable of being what you seem to be.

Ignore your growth in virtue at your own risk.

Focusing on growing your virtue is the most radical stance you can have in the world.

Some virtue can be obtained through intentional practice and your own will. However, growing in deep virtue is impossible in your own power. Only God can truly transform.


"Character makes trust possible. And trust makes leadership possible. Whenever you lead people, it's as if they consent to take a journey with you. The way that trip is going to turn out is predicted by your character. With good character, the longer the trip is, the better it seems. But if your character is flawed, the longer the trip is, the worse it gets."

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John C. Maxwell

"These virtues are formed in man by his doing the actions ... The good of man is a working of the soul in the way of excellence in a complete life."

Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle


What one area of my character, if I grew in it, would lead to the most profound change in my life?

Who can I talk to who is more mature and wise than I am in a particular area?

What can I do today to help me grow in virtue?


Please let me know if you are interested in learning more about virtue and its implications. I have been doing a lot of thinking and writing on this topic (to help my thinking) and can share more on it in future Words of Wisdom if you are interested.

Live wisely,


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