Leading A Virtuous Life
Introduction to this Essay
Leading a Virtuous Life provides a foundation for Leading a Fulfilled Life. This Essay presents important Virtues for all of us who elect to Travel the Path of Continuing Creation. These include the traditional Virtues of Do Not Murder, Do not Steal, and Do not Lie. We also include the Practical Virtues of creative work, such as enterprise, cooperation, and perseverance. This Essay continues by covering Personal Virtues, such as and rationality, courage, and moderation. We even list a number of Military Virtues, since these continue to play a role in human civilization. We offer a particular set of virtues aimed at caring for the biosphere of Earth. Not to be outdone by the hundreds of self-help books on the market, we put forward The Book of G>O>D>s’ Eight Steps of Daily Growth, and a number of additional helpful Daily Practices.
What is man’s ultimate direction in life? It is to look for love, truth, virtue, and beauty.”
— Shinichi Suzuki
This is the second Essay in a set of three of Essays – Leading Moral Life, Leading A Virtuous Life, and Leading a Fulfilled Life.
In the first Essay, Leading a Moral Life, we cover the Moral Precepts – the actions that creative, civilized and humane life requires. We discuss both the Moral Precepts of Do No Harm, including “Do not murder,” and we discuss the Moral Precepts of Extending Care, including “Care for your children.”
In Moral Life, we noted that the Moral Precepts Extending Care could also be thought of as Virtues, and vice versa.
In this Essay, Leading a Virtuous Life, we talk about the additional worthwhile behaviors people can do in their lives. It’s about Doing Good beyond the requirements of the Moral Precepts.
This is an important Essay in the Book of Continuing Creation, because our Spiritual Path is action-oriented; and Virtue means pointing our actions along the same creative and constructive trajectory as taken by the Growing>Organizing>Direction itself.
As was the case with the Moral Precepts, we present the Virtues in several sub-categories. The categories are not hard and fast — many of our Virtues could fit into more than one sub-category.
For example, “Patience,” which we list as a “Virtue of Work” in this Essay, is also important in the world (category) of “Human Relationships.”
Virtues can also be closely related to Practices – routines we perform every day remind ourselves of positive traits, instill them in our character, and reinforce them in our behavior. Toward its end, this Essay suggests ways for individuals to practice and build up their Virtues.
For example, in this chapter we list the Virtue of “Mindfulness.” Mindfulness begins as a Practice – something we do on a daily basis to cultivate a Healthy Mind, and also a Healthy Spirit. As Mindfulness is learned, when it becomes a habit, it is a Virtue — a quality of the person.
The Practice and Virtue of Mindfulness also greatly contribute to development of the other Virtues, in the same way that attention, concentration, and repetition develop the skill of piano playing.
Before beginning, we should note that there are natural “edge conflicts” between the different Virtues. Within the arena of Creativity, for example, “Originality” can conflict with the Virtues of “Balance” and “Relevance”.
The edge-conflict between Forgiveness and Acting with Justice can be especially troublesome, and we devote more attention to this conflict toward the end of the Chapter.
We also present an extended discussion of “Positivity” and “Mindfulness” toward the end of this Essay.
These complications of categorization and conflict show how rich and complex life really is. A study of biography, literature, and anthropology can bring out the depth and subtlety of Human Virtues and Vices. But the greatest teacher of all is to live life.
This Essay acts as a foundation for the Essay, Leading a Happy and Fulfilled Life. The Practice of G>O>D> holds that we cannot lead a fulfilled and happy life unless we have a connection with G>O>D>, a connection that gives our life meaning, and therefore purpose. To do this, we must each live in accordance with Principles of G>O>D>, and if we do that we are being Virtuous. Therefore, Fulfillment and Happiness require Virtue.
Morality is a Prerequisite for Virtue
First, in order to lead a Virtuous life, we must lead a moral life. The Virtues can only be based on a foundation of obedience to the Moral Precepts of Continuing Creation.
Of course, human behavior is never perfectly Moral, nor completely Virtuous. Our biological drive to pass on our own particular genes frequently leads us off the Moral path; into selfishness and even violence. Yet we must strive to do our best, by returning to our practice of the Virtues again and again. Practice builds good habits, and good habits build good character.
“Act as you would be, and so shall you become.”
Virtue Begins with the Internalization of Morality
Second, Virtue requires the internalization of Morality. It is much easier not to steal if you believe that theft is wrong. This internalization, which often takes place in childhood and early adulthood, constructs a person’s Moral Character. Once in place, our Moral inculcation must govern our actual behavior.
Most people feel that morals can be internalized through reinforcement, practice, and discipline. Morals are internalized when people come to agree with Ernest Hemingway, who said “About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.”
Virtues can also be internalized through reinforcement, practice, and discipline. In The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt talks about the conscious mind being like a “rider” atop the more primitive, instinctual parts of the brain, which are like an “elephant.” Haidt says that virtue results when the “rider” (the conscious reasoning mind, the cerebral cortex, the ego, the loving sharing brain) has trained the “elephant” (the subconscious, the more primitive parts of the brain, the selfish brain, the id, the sex drive, the greedy child within). [probably b/t pg. 190 and 222]
Virtues can and do change to match the culture and the times. According to sociologist James Hunter (The Death of Character), before the Industrial Revolution, Americans honored the virtues of producers – hard work, self-restraint, sacrifice for the future, and sacrifice for the common good. But in the 20th century, we have become centered on individual preferences and personal fulfillment. “Character” has been replaced by “personality.” Haidt, 176.
However, the modern academic discipline of Positive Psychology finds that Virtues are fairly constant across the vast majority of cultures. This is a direct challenge to the former academic orthodoxy of moral relativism.
The development of the Character Strengths and Virtues (CSV) Handbook, written in 2004 by Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman, was the first attempt on the part of the research community to identify and classify positive psychological traits of human beings.
The CSV suggests that six 6 Virtues (Wisdom & Knowledge, Courage, Humanity, Justice, Temperance, and Transcendence), encompassing 24 “strengths,” are fairly constant have a historical basis in the vast majority of cultures. In addition, these virtues and strengths can lead to increased happiness when built upon.
More recent research suggests that the 24 strengths can be contained in just 3 categories — Intellectual Strengths, Interpersonal Strengths, and Temperance Strengths [wiki: positive psychology]
Taoism goes further, and says that Virtue arises naturally when a person follows the Tao – The Way. This natural virtue, which is also a natural power within a person’s character, is called Te, usually translated as virtue. Cultivation of one’s Te is an important part of Taoist spiritual practice.
The Path of Continuing Creation says – In a number of our Essays, we point out the strong similarity between Taoism’s concept of the Way, and our own concept of the Growing>Organizing>Direction of the Cosmos. We both understand that human morality and Virtue emerge naturally from our long evolution as intelligent social animals, provided we make the effort to align ourselves with the flow of G>O>D>. This process of natural emergence explains why so many of the world’s cultures come up with Lists of Virtues that are highly similar, as we show in APPENDIX C to this Essay.
The Virtues Extend Beyond the Moral Precepts
Third, a Virtuous Life extends a person’s positive behavior beyond the requirements of the Moral Precepts. For example, while it is a Moral Precept to care for your body (eating, sleeping, exercising), it is a Virtue to become well-nourished, physically fit, strong, vital, and enduring.
Together, the Moral Precepts and the Virtues form a person’s Character.
Today, we have moved a good way to what sociologist Emile Durkheim called anomie, or normlessness. Anomie breeds feeling of rootlessness and anxiety.
In his book, The Happiness Hypothesis, psychologist Jonathan Haidt writes: “I believe that we have indeed lost something important – a richly textured common ethos with widely shared virtues and values. Just watch movie from the 1930’s and 1940’s and you’ll see people moving around in a dense web of moral fibers: Characters are concerned about their honor, their reputation, and the appearance of propriety. Children are frequently disciplined by adults other than their parents. The good guys always win and crime never pays.” P. 175.
Specializing in Certain Virtues
The Path of Continuing Creation says that if people follow nearly all the “Do Not” Moral Precepts, and most of the “Do” Moral Precepts, they can elect to concentrate in the Virtues that best suit them and most interest them. Military women and men will emphasize the Military Virtues we discuss later in this Essay. Nurses will elect to spend their time and energy helping people – the human side of out Moral Triangle. Foresters elect to work at helping Earth’s side. Masons, artists, and engineers elect to build the Continuing Creation side of the Moral Triangle. These individual concentrations may also extend to people’s choices in pursuit of a Fulfilled Life.
Before we list the Virtues of the Path G>O>D>, we want to mention the historical precedents known as Moderating the Seven Deadly Sins, and Practicing the Seven Contrary Virtues. Here they are, as written down by Pope Gregory I around the year 600 C.E., and by the poet Clements Prudentius at the end of the 4th Century, respectively:
|[Moderating] the Seven Deadly Sins (or Vices)||[Practicing] the Seven Contrary Virtues*|
|Wrath (or unjust anger)||Meekness (or Patience)|
|Gluttony (and Drunkenness)||Temperance|
(*APPENDIX C to this Essay presents several other Lists of Virtues, from major world religions.)
In the Book of G>O>D>, we prefer the less theological word “Vices” over the historical word “Sins.” Going forward, we will only employ the phrase, “Seven Deadly Vices.”
Most scholars agree that Gregory’s ordering of the Seven Deadly Vices was not meant to be a ranking.
Since pre-medieval times, simply moderating any of the Seven Deadly Vices was considered a virtue. But a person could also practice a specific proactive Virtue to move one’s character well beyond that Vice.
A number of the Virtues of G>O>D> are similar to those in the above lists. However, the Path of G>O>D> finds that this list contains some miss-matched pairs. In addition, some of these virtues and vices are poorly named, and others have become outdated. Our own list, below, addresses these problems.
Listing the Virtues of the Path of G>O>D>
Below, we list the Virtues of the Path G>O>D>.
Our Virtues can be split into two Main Categories (A and B); each of which can be split again into two Sub-categories (1. and 2.):
A. Inner-directed Virtues, which affect our individual well-being (both physical and spiritual).
- Inner-directed Virtues of Moderation (we try to reduce, eliminate, limit, or avoid bad traits)
- Inner-directed Virtues of Cultivation (we try to learn and practice good traits)
B. Outer-directed Virtues, which affect the world around us , including other living things, and Earth itself.
The Outer-directed Virtues are split into five sub-categories, roughly in order of their likely evolution in Human culture.
- Military Virtues
- Virtues of Human Relationships
- Virtues of Work and Practical Affairs
- Virtues of Invention and Creativity
- Virtues For the Environment
Not every Virtue we list will fit neatly into just one of these categories, but the categories are a useful way of looking at this subject. We leave it to each reader to decide where a particular Virtue on our List best fits.
A-1. Inner-directed Virtues of Moderation — “Bad qualities in our character that we want to reduce ore eliminate”
Reduce Pride, lest it become Arrogance, Egocentrism, Vanity, or Narcissism.
In the Book of G>O>D>, Pride (including Vanity) is one of the Seven Deadly Vices. Pride is excessive belief in one’s own abilities. The Contrary (i.e., counteracting) Virtue is seen as Humility.
Christian teaching fails to separate Excessive Pride, which is indeed a Vice, from Justified and Moderated Pride (often called Self-confidence), which is in fact a Virtue.
The Path of G>O>D> shows us that Self-confidence is required for human beings to achieve and feel justifiably good about their achievements. Without moderated and justified Pride, people would be unable to muster confidence in their own abilities and summon up the drive to create and achieve.
Only unwarranted Pride and over-displayed Pride, also experienced as Arrogance, Egocentrism, Vanity, and Narcissism, should be eliminated.
In fact, the Path of G>O>D> tell us: We can never take full credit for anything we achieve. Other people (alive and dead), Nature, and the Process of G>O>D> itself are contributors in each and every thing we achieve.
Thomas Edison could not have invented a workable lightbulb if prior inventors had not invented the machines to generate and transmit electricity over copper wires.
Just as Pride is not always a bad thing, Humility is not always a Virtue. Humility implies subservience. Humility can even shade into “Low Self-esteem,” which is a Vice.
Low Self-esteem can even become a mental and spiritual disability if it devolves into purposelessness, self-pity, dependence, depression, and anomie.
Modesty is a better Contrary Virtue to Pride than is Humility. Modesty preserves a warranted but quiet Pride in one’s achievements, and maintains self-respect.
Interestingly, “Humility” was 13th (dead last) on Benjamin Franklin’s List of 13 Virtues. He wrote, “Imitate Jesus and Socrates.” But no one who has studied Franklin’s life can take him seriously on this, as it is so contrary to his personality.
Reduce Greed for Wealth, Power, Risk and Excitement.
“Greed,” or “Avarice,” is another of the Seven Deadly Sins, but it refers only to the excessive pursuit of wealth. Its Contrary Virtue was Generosity (known as “Liberality” in past centuries).
It is a shortcoming of the original Seven Deadly Vices that they do not include abusive or addictive devotion to power, risk, and excitement. Power, risk, and excitement can become addictions, just as food (gluttony), wealth (greed) and sex (lust) can.
Practitioners of G>O>D> hold that we should moderate not only pursuit of wealth, but also of power, risk, and excitement.
Today, bullying at school is a common example of the exercise of excessive power. This was seldom remarked upon in times past.
Eliminate Sexual Obsession; Moderate Sexual Activity. Practice sex only with the consent of, and care for, our partners; and only with protection against disease and unwanted conception.
One of the Seven Deadly Vices was called Lust, and its Contrary Virtue was Chastity; but today, chastity (abstention from all sexual activity outside marriage) is too extreme. Our version of this Virtue, stated in bold type above, is more specific to circumstances.
Some pre-modern writers describe Lust as “prostitution, fornication, or lechery,” while others say that Lust is the mental obsession with sex, regardless of whether or how it is acted upon. Today, we might use the term “sex-addiction,” (and even more severe personality disorders like sadism and pedophilia) instead of Lust.
In his List of Thirteen Virtues, Benjamin Franklin wrote about the Vice of Lust. He said, “Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.”
Reduce Anger, and display it only when it can be constructive.
“Wrath” was another one of the Seven Deadly Vices, and the Contrary Virtue defending against Wrath was “Patience” (sometimes given as “meekness.”)
The Virtue of Patience includes seeking appropriate resolution of conflicts, forgiving, and showing mercy.
Anger often leads to fighting. Psychologists say that “Fight” and “Flight” are the two common biological responses to Fear. However, many spiritual leaders contend that neither Fight nor Flight can really counteract Fear; only Love can counteract Fear.
We Followers of G>O>D> partly disagree. Love is not the only thing that can counteract Fear. The evolution of G>O>D> shows that a number of other Virtues can also counteract Fear, including Reason, Prudence, and Bravery.
Moderate Eating. Eat healthy foods in healthy amounts.
In pre-medieval and medieval times, obsessive overeating was called Gluttony, which is one of the Seven Deadly Vices. (The meaning of Gluttony was usually stretched to cover Drunkenness.) The defense against the Vice of Gluttony was traditionally the Contrary Virtue of Temperance, which is a Virtue of Moderation.
In the modern era, we have added a Proactive Virtue: Eat Healthy Foods in Healthy Amounts.
In fact, this modern Proactive Virtue has been expanded to encompass more detailed behaviors, such as:
- Eat Less Meat or Fat (depending on the person and/or physician)
- Eat Less Carbohydrates (depending of the person and/or physician)
- Eat more fruits, nuts, & vegetables (apparently true for almost everyone)
- Eat more food that is organically grown, “free-range,” etc.
Next, we need to add a major new Virtue to our list address the wide-spread drug abuse we see in the twenty-first century life, as follows:
Abstain from Mind-Altering Substances.
These substances include alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, opioids, cocaine, methamphetamines, psychedelics, and all other non-medically-prescribed drugs which harm the body and/or alter the mind, or which produce dangerous and unwelcome behaviors.
Why does the Path of G>O>D> call for Abstinence in this area and not mere Moderation? For Followers of G>O>D>, the complete prohibition of mind-altering substances is a badge of dedication to our Practice. In addition, abstinence helps protect the significant minority of individuals who are genetically disposed to chronic chemically-based addictions.
Reduce Laziness, Indolence, and Apathy; Cultivate Positive Energy and Constructive Activity.
Historically, “laziness, Indolence, and apathy” were collectively known as the Vice of Sloth. Sloth also includes passivity and escapism. The Contrary Moderating Virtue was Diligence.
According to some modern Catholic sources, “Sloth, as a capital sin, refers to laziness in matters of Faith.” (http://www.sthilarychurch.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/January122013.pdf) However, in the Practice of G>O>D>, one can be “slothful” in virtually any productive or creative work, because all such work is part of the Practice of G>O>D>
In Modern times, Diligence is better replaced by the Proactive Virtue, Cultivate Positive Energy and Constructive Activity.
Reduce Our Envy of Others; Celebrate the Honest Good Fortune of Others.
Envy, another of the Seven Deadly Vices, is the desire for another person’s traits, status, wealth, abilities, or situation.
“Jealousy,” which is akin to Envy, was called “the green-ey’d monster” by Shakespeare (Othello, Act 3, scene 3)
The Contrary Virtue that traditionally defended against the Vice of Envy was the Virtue of “Kindness.” Unfortunately, this does not seem to be a very close opposite to “Envy.” A better proactive Virtue might be: Celebrate the honest good fortune of others, as evidence of the creative process of G>O>D>. But most of us will be doing well if we simply moderate the envy we do have.
“If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” – the poem Desiderata.
Reduce Our Close-mindedness, Parochialism, Superstition, and Ignorance.
This is a very important virtue within the Discipline of G>O>D>. The four traits being reduced here are not part of the Seven Deadly Sins. Reduction of these four traits comes to us not from Catholicism, but from the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the Protestant Reformation. The opposing Virtues include Open-mindedness, exploration, Inquiring, Critical thinking, Questioning, Examining, Analyzing, and The Scientific Method.
The Practice of G>O>D> Comments on Moderation and Balance
Reviewing the Inner-directed Virtues of Moderation listed above, we again note that they all aim at keeping our appetites under control.
Aristotle also preached a life that followed “The Golden Mean” between deficiency and excess, although he took care to say that the Golden Mean is often not the exact arithmetic mid-point between the two extremes.
The Buddha discovered that he could not achieve Nirvana (Transcendent peaceful being) through consumption and pleasure. Nor could he achieve it through ascetic self-denial. He finally reached Nirvana through “The Middle Way” of Moderation.
However, The Path of G>O>D> shows us that the maxim “Moderation in All Things” is wrong. We should completely abstain from unhealthy things such as heroin use. But on the other side, too much of almost every good thing is bad. Even a complete fullness with and practice of Love might be unhealthy for a person. So, the Book of G>O>D>’s maxim is: Moderation in all Healthy Things.
Mohandas Gandhi expressed the need for balance when he wrote that the following unbalanced traits are the most spiritually perilous to humanity:
— Wealth without Work
— Pleasure without Conscience
— Science without Humanity
— Knowledge without Character
— Politics without Principle
— Commerce without Morality
— Worship without Sacrifice
We should note that Vices in the extreme form can easily be, and/or be caused by, mental disorders. Sloth can be caused by severe Depression. Alcoholism can be partly caused by a genetic predisposition. Criminal minds often display heightened love of excitement and are prone to anger. Mental disorders are beyond the scope of the Book of G>O>D>, although we touch on the subject again in our chapter on Evil.
We must also realize that almost any Virtue can be taken to excess. For example, it is quite possible to become addicted to exercise, which is normally a healthy activity. Scientist-inventors like James Clerk Maxwell and Thomas Alva Edison came so close to addiction to work and creative discovery that they sometimes had to be “taken” out of their laboratories by their loved ones, so that their health would not succumb to over exertion. So we can say, “Balance Among All Good Things.”
Mens sana in corpore sano (“a healthy mind in a healthy body”) is a famous Latin quotation derived from Satire X, by the Roman poet Juvenal.
A-2. Inner-directed Virtues of Cultivation (we try to learn and practice good traits)
We’re not done with the Book of G>O>D>’s List of Virtues. Below are several more Virtues which lie outside the category of Moderation. These are additional Inner-directed Virtues of Cultivation. They are character traits which (for the most part) we want to develop more fully. These are Virtues which Cultivate a Healthy and Creative Body, Mind, and Spirit.
Exercise, Wash, and Care for the Health of our Bodies, Clothes, and Dwellings.
This is an Inner-directed Virtue that Cultivates a Healthy Body and a Healthy Dwelling. A Healthy body in healthy surroundings contributes to a Healthy Mind, which contributes to a Healthy Spirit.
“Cleanliness” was #10 in Benjamin Franklin’s List of 13 Virtues 10. Cleanliness. He wrote, “Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.”
Psychologist Jonathan Haidt writes that Many religions have a “Morality of Purity.” For example, Judaism’s rules regard women as “unclean” until they take a ritualized bath after menstruating, and regard pork as “unclean” and inedible. Similarly, Muslims must perform a ritual washing of face, hands, and feet before performing daily prayers.
Followers of G>O>D> undertake no such symbolic practices of cleanliness. We practice cleanliness and orderliness for the sake of health, to promote a calm mind, and to eliminate offensive odors and noises. Sunlight and fresh air should, within reason, enter our homes.
Love Learning, Including Lifelong Learning.
Cultivate the skill and habit of rational thinking, basing conclusions on evidence and logic.
Share and Enjoy Humor.
Cultivate Personal Authenticity, Self-Respect, Self-Esteem.
Be yourself. As Joseph Campbell writes, “Follow your “’bliss,” meaning follow your true calling, purpose, or strongest interest in life. Not to become obsessive about one thing, but to give greatest emphasis to the once thing in Life that resonates with you the most.
“Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.” – the poem, Desiderata.
Accept What Cannot be Changed.
“G>O>D> grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.”
Actively Connect with the Growing>Organizing>Direction> of Creation.
Dedicate yourself to the Growing>Organizing>Direction> of Creation.
Cultivate Optimism, Positivity, Joy, Vitality.
Cultivate Appreciation, Affirmation, Thankfulness, Celebration.
Practice Orderliness, Calm, Peace, Tranquility, Serenity.
“Orderliness” is a pre-requisite for Serenity. Orderliness includes personal neatness. A hundred years ago, no American would go shopping “downtown” without wearing a full set of formal clothes, kept as clean and pressed as the individual could afford.
Even ambitious, hard-driving Benjamin Franklin had “Tranquility” as #11 on his list of 13 Virtues. He wrote, “Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.”
Cultivate Open-mindedness, Inquiry, and Exploration.
Cultivate Examination, Analysis, Critical-thinking and The Scientific Method.
These Virtues, and the ones on the line just above it, are also very important for the Progress of G>O>D> in all aspects of creation and society. There are as much Outer-directed as they are Inner- directed Virtues.
Cultivate Awareness, Understanding, Enlightenment, Wisdom.
Practice Reflection, Contemplation, Meditation.
For additional discussion, see our Essay on MEDITATION
Exercise Conscience, Repentance, Confession, Restitution and Amends.
Conscience is the ability to recognize the wrongs we have done. It is best for each person to devote a portion of time before sleep to reviewing the day and noting where he or she went wrong during that day.
Repentance is regretting each wrong, and resolving to (a) apologize for and redress that wrong as soon as practically possible, and (b) actively avoid doing similar wrongs in the future.
Confession is best achieved by making a sincere apology to the wronged person, creature, group, or system. It is also most helpful to confess a wrong (or a habit of repeating wrongs) to a trusted friend or spiritual counselor. Weavers of Continuing Creation do not confess “to G>O>D>,” because G>O>D> (being a process and not a super-person), does not exchange personal messages with individual humans.
Restitution and Amends means restoring to the wronged party, as best as one can, what the wronged party has lost. This could be money, goods, moral support, truth, attention, and/or love. It may take quite some time (even years), and effort for fulsome restitution and Amends to be made.
Cultivate Acceptance, Letting-Go, Forgetting, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation.
In the past few decades, there has been a tendency in the pulpit to conflate the meanings of these terms. This is unfortunate, because in common parlance “forgiveness” still means sincerely telling a wrong-doer that you will no longer hold his wrong against him. Here are the definitions of these distinct terms according to the Book of G>O>D>:
Acceptance is resolving to go on with life, despite a wrong that was done to you.
Letting-Go is the further step of removing all Resentment from your Spirit.
Forgiveness is Letting-Go and telling the wrong-doer that he or she is forgiven.
Reconciliation is you and the wrong-doer agreeing to have a relationship going forward.
Forgetting is erasing a wrong done to you from your memory (a virtually impossible task).
Redress and Reform which is achieving justice for, recompense from, or reform of, the offender.
For a more complete discussion of the last six of these Virtues (i.e., Acceptance through Redress & Reform), see APPENDIX A at the end of this Essay.
Interestingly, Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson feels that human creativity results in large measure form humans’ in-born struggle with good and evil, which in turn comes from our being a product of both individual natural selection and group natural selection. (TMOHE 180). [I think this is sure true of creativity in literature, maybe not so much in science.]
Show Constructiveness, Cooperation, and Enterprise
Demonstrate Compassion, Sympathy, Altruism
Compassion is from the Latin, “cum passio”? Maybe “compassio”? Meaning “to suffer with.”
Just as the Path of Continuing Creation enlarges the concept of God to be come the Concept of G>O>D>, so we must enlarge the scope of Love.
The problem is that the English word “love” is used for too many different things. In the Book of G>O>D>, we will often use a number of more specific terms:
Life Partners’ Love
Family love (love of children, love of parents, love of siblings)
Love for close Friends
Love for Humanity
Love of Community – love of Country (patriotism), love of ethnicity, love of your city
Love of a subject, profession, or interest
Love of learning
Love of an activity — such as love of hiking, love of playing chess
Love of Nature (including love of animals, love of forests, etc.)
Love of the Earth
Love of the Process and Path of G>O>D>
In sports, great coaches teach team work and team spirit – love of your team mates, love of the game. In business, it is Love of doing, building, and providing that motivates people to create; not the profit motive, not the desire to get rich.
The Book of G>O>D>’s definition of Love: Deep, dedicated, personal care for a person, activity, creature, cause, type of work (art, welding, medicine), or activity (baseball). We can say that Creating is a kind of Love. But we can also say that Love is a kind of Creating. We can ask “which came first?” For people who believe in an anthropocentric Creator-God, Love may well come before Creating – God loved before he created. For people who follow the Path of G>O>D>, more likely Creating came first – Creating involving atoms and molecules came first, love come later, with the evolution of sentient minds. In other words, Love emerges after there has been sufficient Creating to generate consciousness.
The Path of Continuing Creation teaches that Love is Combined with Creating. In Christianity, love means the love other people and of God. However, in our Practice of G>O>D>, Love encompasses people, activities, plants and animals, our work, and our activities. When we say “Love G>O>D>” we mean loving all those things. Whatever and whenever we love, we achieve and express a deep and abiding care and concern for, interest in, and positive involvement with the object of our love. We enter a “flow state,” where our being in a sense merges with the object of our love. All of these do entail positive emotional involvement. For followers of G>O>D>, “Love” is caring about someone or something as much (or more) than you care about yourself.
“Work is Love made visible.”
— Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet (Vintage, cc 1923, ed 2105, pg 31)
The Path of Continuing Creation also says: All the things and all the events of Life are contained within the things and events of G>O>D>. Therefore, to Love G>O>D>… first Love Life. This truth can also be stated in reverse: It is our Love of G>O>D> that leads us to love Life and all the things within it.
Is Love Infinitely Expandable?
The Practice of Continuing Creation says — The internal experience of love may well be expandable. For example, St. Francis of Assisi is known for embodying more love than most people. Such a person is said to have a loving “heart.” We practice Mindfulness in order to expand the reach of our Love to include more of our lives. However, the practical extension and application of love is limited by each person’s time, energy, and resources. These are the same things that limit each person’s sharing.
Cultivate Empathy and Sympathy; and, as practicable, Compassion
Empathy is when someone can “put himself in another person’s shoes,” and identify with that other person’s misfortune. (Empathy can mean identifying holistically with all aspects of another person’s life – both the good and the bad.)
Sympathy is the expression of empathy – e.g., when I tell someone “I am sorry for your trouble.”)
Compassion is empathy plus a genuine desire to help the suffering person.
Here are some of the results of recent research on empathy:
- (all this below are direct quotes from “How Do We Increase Empathy?” By Nicholas Kristof, The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Columnist New York Times JAN. 29, 2015.)
- Empathy seems hard-wired in many mammal species. Even laboratory rats will sometimes free a trapped companion before munching on a food treat.
- Christians and Buddhists might well say that empathy, like brotherly love, is inexhaustible. Others would say that if love and empathy are spread too thin, they dry out.
- “Probably the biggest empathy generator is cuteness: child-like (paedomorphic) features such as large eyes, a large head, and a small lower face,” Steven Pinker, the Harvard psychologist, tells us.
- There’s also some research suggesting that wealth may impede empathy. That may be partly because affluence insulates us from seeing need.
Craftsmen of G>O>D> say: While charity of time, effort, and money are limited and must be prioritized, charity of empathy and kindness are more easily done. We can all be philanthropists of kindness and empathy. It requires not more resources, but simply a different attitude. [this is a repeat, but a good repeat, from the chapter on Morality.]
B. The Outer-Directed Virtues
The Outer-directed Virtues are the Virtues of Action. They are very important to Followers of G>O>D>, because people must act in order to contribute to the Growing>Organizing>Direction of the Cosmos.
In contrast with our own Path, Hinduism and Buddhism place too much emphasis on the Inner-Directed Virtues, and not enough emphasis on the Outer-directed virtues. For hundreds of years, little progress had been made in the Far East to advance technology, alleviate illness and poverty, or institute democracy and social reform. As a result, Hindu monks and Buddhist priests were fatalistic, retreating into hours of daily meditation, seeking internal spiritual escape into Nirvana – Enlightenment. While they preached Compassion, they were often receivers of charity rather than performers of charity.
We divide the Outer-Directed Virtues into five sub-groups, presented in the rough order in which Western literature recognized them as being Virtues:
1. Military Virtues
2. Virtues of Human Relationships
3. Virtues of Work and Practical Affairs
4. Virtues of Invention and Creativity,
5. Virtues For the Environment (Eco-centric Virtues.)
The Weave of Continuing Creation notes — Looking at the Old Religions’ Lists of Virtues in APPENDIX C, We see that those traditional Lists usually leave out the Virtues of Work, and always leave out the Virtues For the Environment.
In reading through these Virtues, remember that the lines between the groups are not hard and fast. For example, “Creativity” is a virtue that plays a role both in the world of Work and in the world of Art. The Virtue of “Judgment” applies is all areas of life, not just to the world of Work. So once again, Moderation and Balance are key, and the Virtue of Judgment must mediate.
Also, the Virtues can conflict with each other. For example, “Prudence” is a virtue in the arena Work, but too much Prudence can stifle Enterprise, which is also a Work Virtue. In the arena of Relationships, an excess of the Virtue “Sympathy” can disrupt the Virtue of “Prudence.”
B-1. Military Virtues
The Military virtues are one of the oldest. In about 730 BCE, The Greeks wrote about them in the Iliad, hundreds of years before Socrates and Plato discussed the Virtues of Good and Beauty at around 400 BCE. “Homer’s Iliad presents two contrasting versions of the heroic ideal: Achilles, who risks everything to become the greatest of warriors, and Hector, who sacrifices his life to defend his people.” (Mark Edmundson, Professor of English at the University of Virginia Self and Soul: A Defense of Ideals (Harvard Univ. Press, 2015).
Today, it would be wrong to ignore or dismiss the Military Virtues, as Christianity and Buddhism try to do. Human biology and human history present clear evidence of our species’ propensity for violent crime and for violent warfare. As this is written, the Middle East is aflame with tribal warfare over different interpretations of Islam, to say nothing of the conflict between Islam and Judaism. During the past few decades, Protestants were at war with Catholics in Northern Ireland; the Hutus and Tutsi were at war in Rwanda. When we need the Military Virtues, we really, really need them.
Courage, Bravery, Valor (one of the 4 Cardinal virtues of the Ancient Greeks)
Loyalty, Respect, Dedication, Resolve
Fitness, Strength, Endurance
Honor, Integrity, Honesty
In his book, The Social Conquest of the Earth, E.O. Wilson writes, “Authentic altruism is based on a biological instinct for the common good of the tribe, put in place by group selection, wherein groups of altruists in prehistoric times prevailed over groups and individuals in selfish disarray….and beyond the ordinary instincts of altruism, there is something more, delicate and ephemeral in character but, when experienced, transformative. It is honor, a feeling born of innate empathy and cooperativeness. It is the final reserve of altruism that may yet save our race.” (251)
Wilson goes on to say that honor is often displayed during war. It is not just bravery in the face of the enemy. It is adherence to the moral rules of war: To not kill enemy soldiers when it is possible to take them prisoner instead. Not to loot captured towns. And not to do those things when everyone else in your “band of brothers” has given in to doing them. Honor is also standing up to authority when authority is in the wrong; speaking truth to justice. Like Civil Rights marchers did during the 1960’s. (words from me. Idea from Wilson 252)
Decisiveness, Aggressiveness, Audacity
Cunning, Guile, Deception
A number of foreign countries (Egypt is a good example) find that only their military has sufficient discipline and organization to hold together the varied ethnic tribes and religious sects that would otherwise spin into uncontrolled violence. Too often, of course, military order is an oppressive tool of an unjust regime – as is the case in North Korea. Our military academies spend a great deal of time and money inculcating the Military Virtues into American Cadets and Midshipmen. What would an army be like without Honor, Honesty, and Dedication? It would be something like Iraq’s army in the 1990’s – riddled with corruption, prone to desertion in the face of the enemy.
Judgment (one of the 4 Cardinal virtues of the Ancient Greeks)
Heroism – a peak-experience or culmination of the military virtues
Remarks on the Military Virtues in General:
Here is a vision of the far future, where Military Virtues could be required: While Earth’s plant life is able to live off sunlight, water, and nutrients in the soil, we know that plants cannot gather enough energy to think or create technology, because those activities require a brain, and the brain requires enormous energy throughput. The only way to gather enough energy to do those things is to be a predator – to eat other creatures, because that way such creatures can take in large, concentrated lumps of fuel. Therefore, it is most likely that any aliens who come to our planet would be predators. And the most likely reason for them to come would be to get our resources – our oxygen, crops and game, water, and mineral deposits. Therefore, it is most probable that aliens who do come to Earth would be hostile to human beings. (Through the Wormhole, television series, ~March 3/04/2014.)
And here is a quote about an historical event, when the Spanish Armada sailed north to conquer England: “My Lords, I can offer you no words of comfort. This Armada that sails against us carries in its bowels the Inquisition. God forbid it succeeds. For then there will be no more liberty in England, of conscience or of thought. We cannot be defeated.” (from movie Elizabeth, The Golden Age)
Lastly, here is a poem about Virtues from the Roman poet Juvenal. His words seem tailored to military life, but also clearly apply to the life of work, which we take up later in this chapter.
“Pray for a sound mind in a sound body.
Ask for a stout heart that has no fear of death,
And deems length of days the least of Nature’s gifts;
A constitution that can endure any kind of toil,
That knows neither wrath nor desire,
And thinks the woes and hard labors of Hercules better than
The loves and banquets and downy cushions of Sardanapalus.
What I commend to you, you can give to yourself;
For assuredly, the only road to a life of peace is virtue.”
— The Roman poet Juvenal, (circa 55-138 A.D.), Satire X
B-2. Virtues of Human Relationships
The Virtues of Human Relationships can be roughly split into two sub-groups, “Virtues of Cooperation.” And “Virtues of Giving.”
— Virtues of Cooperation:
Several of these are also listed as a Moral Precepts.
Justice, Fairness (one of the 4 Cardinal Virtues of the ancient Greeks)
Politeness, Courtesy, Organization, Coordination, Team-orientation
Recall that “Right Speech” is a Moral Precept of Doing Good.
Respect, Tolerance, Receptivity
Responsibility, Leadership, Charisma
Relevance, Activism, Positivity
The next Chapter contains a discussion of the Book of G>O>D’s Six Steps of Positive Living, and its historical antecedent, the Positive Thinking Movement.
Aproachability, Hospitality, Consideration, Warmth, Understanding, Friendship
In conversation, say only what is useful to yourself or to others. Avoid gossip, chatter, and repetition. (Franklin #2)
— Virtues of Giving
The Virtues of Giving to others, or Altruism, form a continuum. They extend from “Common Courtesy,” through “Extending Kindness,” all the way to “Devoting Your Life to Charity;” from left to right as follows:
Courtesy, Goodwill, Concern, Helpfulness, Sharing, Kindness, Generosity, Charity, Devotion
Moving from left to right on this scale of Virtues, people display increasing levels of Agape and Altruism.
Agape, often translated “unconditional love”, is one of the ancient Greek words translated into English as “love.” In the New Testament, Agape refers to the covenant encompassing God’s Love for humans, and the reciprocal Humans’ Love for God. As such, Agape necessarily extends to the love of one’s fellow man.
Agape is more about a person’s love for humanity as a whole; while the term Brotherly Love usually describes love for specific persons or groups of people… but the distinction is blurred.
Altruism is the practice of concern for the welfare of others. Altruism is Agape and Brotherly Love put into action.
When Altruism extends over and above the Book of G>O>D>’s Moral Level of Charity (which we discussed in our last chapter), Altruism indeed becomes a Virtue.
Weavers in G>O>D> say — Christianity incorrectly elevates the Virtues of Altruism to the pinnacle of all Virtues. Altruism is not a Virtue that is superior to the important Work Virtues or Creative Virtues discussed in this chapter. Sharing only divides the pies of knowledge and technology; it does not mix, form, or bake new pies of knowledge and technology. “If everyone is busy passing bread to others, no one will be doing any baking.”
The Catholic Church developed a List of the “Theological Virtues” – “Faith, Hope, and Charity.”
We have already discussed Charity. “Faith” and “Hope” are not Virtues within the Path of G>O>D>, because they contradict common sense. “Faith” and “Hope” are talking oneself into expecting good outcomes, even when their probability is very low. For followers of the Book of G>O>D>, the Virtues of “Optimism” and Determination” make much more sense than do “Faith” and “Hope.”
People who lack all feeling and care for other humans are likely to have the mental disorder of sociopathy.
B-3. Virtues of Work and Practical Affairs
Work itself, if honest and constructive, is a Virtue
Optimism, Positivity, Proactivity
Our Essay on LIVING A FULFILLED & HAPPY LIFE contains a discussion of the Book of G>O>D’s Six Steps of Positive Living, and its historical antecedent, the Positive Thinking Movement.
Ambition, Drive, Initiative
Enterprise, Creativity, Industry (Enterprise was #6 on Franklin’s List of Virtues)
Honesty, Integrity, Fairness (Integrity was #7 on Franklin’s list.)
Foresight, Practicality, Prudence (Prudence was one of the Four Cardinal Virtues of the Ancient Greeks)
Cooperation, Teamwork, Leadership
Setting High Goals, Maintaining High Standards, Requiring Strong Performance
Resolution, Determination (#4 on Franklin’s list)
Orderliness, Thoroughness, Efficiency (#3 on Franklin’s list)
Patience, Focus, Tough-mindedness, Perseverance
Frugality (#5 on Franklin’s list)
General Remarks on the Virtues of Work & Practical Affairs
Virtually none of the Classical Western lists of Virtues emphasize the Virtues associated with the world of Work. Once reason may be that in ancient times nearly all the work was done by slaves or illiterate servants. Benjamin Franklin, on the other hand, was a successful businessman – a printer – as well as an inventor and a founding father of the United States, and it is not surprising that the Virtues of Work are well represented in his List of Thirteen Virtues.
Work is the arena where idealism meets realism. Even the Buddha chose not to escape into Nirvana, but to return to society and do the work of teaching the Eight-Fold Path to other people. But during the Protestant Reformation, prosperity achieved through work came to be seen as a mark of God’s favor. In the 1700s-1800s, the Industrial Revolution produced an enterprising middle-class, who appreciated the idea that Work was itself a Virtue.
In the Practice of G>O>D>, productive work that helps people, or the environment, or both is a virtue. Work that furthers Continuing Creation (e.g., enhances technology or increases knowledge) is also Virtuous. When productive work simultaneously helps two or even all three of those three things (people, environment, and Continuing Creation), the Virtue of the result is multiplied. Thus, a career that helps people and the environment by adopting and furthering clean-energy technologies and recyclable materials is a calling very well lived.
In 2013, best-selling author Stephen Covey published his best-selling book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Five of his Seven Habits are well-suited tips for developing the Book of G>O>D>’s Virtues of Work:
Habit 1: Be Proactive. Take initiative in life by realizing that your decisions (and how they align with life’s principles) are the primary determining factor for effectiveness in your life. Take responsibility for your choices and the consequences that follow.
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Habit 3: Put First Things First. Prioritize, plan, and execute your week’s tasks based on importance rather than urgency. Evaluate whether your efforts exemplify your desired character values, propel you toward goals, and enrich the roles and relationships that were elaborated in Habit 2.
Habit 4: Think Win-Win. Genuinely strive for mutually beneficial solutions or agreements in your relationships. Value and respect people by understanding a “win” for all is ultimately a better long-term resolution than if only one person in the situation had gotten his way.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
Covey also advocated Abundance Mentality, although it’s not a “Habit.” Abundance Mentality is pretty much the same as the more traditional concepts of Positive Thinking and maintaining an optimistic, Can-Do Attitude.
A Poem on the Virtues of Work, by Marge Piercy
Here is a beautiful poem about the Virtues of Work entitled, To Be of Use, written by Marge Piercy in 1973.
To Be of Use
by Marge Piercy
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.
I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
reek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
B-4. Virtues of Invention and Art
Creativity, Originality, Imagination, Vision, Constructiveness
Sensitivity, Insightfulness, Perceptivity, Intuition
Awareness, Adventurousness, Ingenuity
Balance, Perspective, Proportion, Relevance
Creativity, of course, is present in all human endeavors – warfare, work, and technology as well as in the arts.
Within the ongoing creation of G>O>D the Virtues of Invention and Art are not merely talents. They are more than “nice-to-have” or enviable qualities. They are truly praiseworthy. They are vital to the Growing>Organizing>Direction> of the Cosmos.
B-5. Virtues for the Environment (Eco-centric Virtues)
Be Earth-centered, Eco-conscious, Energy-efficient, Nature-loving
Human beings have a pretty good start on these Eco-centered virtues. At root, we all have a love living things. Children especially feel close to animals. People adopt off-grid, sustainable lifestyles with reduced “carbon footprints.” Humans to have gardens, keep pets, and go birding. Many people choose to be vegetarians because it reduces the CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, and simply because it is less cruel toward animals. (For more discussion, see our chapter on Overpopulation and Global Warming.)
Routines and Disciplines for Practicing the Virtues
Virtues are developed through concentration and practice – the same way that a person learns to play a sport or a musical instrument. We replace old habits by learning new habits; we replace Vices by attaining Virtues. Since Character is the sum of our Virtues minus our Vices (the negatives), Character itself is also developed through that same concentration and practice.
Most Virtues are best learned starting in childhood. Life is complicated, and it is often difficult to know which virtue to apply in given situations. Many cultures refer important Moral decisions to “elders,” who have accumulated wisdom through their long lives.
The Virtues of Open-mindedness, Inquiry, and Exploration, and the follow-on Virtues of Examining, Analyzing, Critical-thinking and The Scientific Method are particularly developed through education and then through experience. Formal education helps immensely, but these Virtues can also be learned through self-education.
For adults, the daily practices and disciplines most helpful in developing our Virtues are the same as for developing Morality, namely: Mindfulness, Positive Thinking, and Meditation. These three “Life Practices” are interrelated in our Eight Steps of Daily Growth, and we devote other Essays to them.
However, here we need to again present the basic Eight Steps of Daily Growth for Followers of the Path of G>O>D>, as they can be applied to Virtue and Character.
The Eight Steps of Daily Growth
First Step is Exploration & Learning — Experientially and mentally explore your surroundings and your life, to seek out what life-path may be best for you. Meditation can be used in this process.
For example, your exploration may tell you work on the Virtue of Cooperation with others, or it may lead you to find your inner talents and interests – what Joseph Campbell (and now Oprah Winfrey) call your “bliss.”
Second Step is Positive Thinking — Visualize your goal-state, adopt an optimistic attitude, and realistically plan the eventual actions you must take to reach your goal. The goal can be one of improving your character, heightening your spirituality, or completing an external achievement.
Third Step is Mindfulness — Do your that visualization and thinking mindfully, meaning with attention and focus – “Do only what you are doing,” without the anxiety and distractions of yesterday’s trials or tomorrow’s worries.
“Look well to this day, for it is life, the very life of life. In its brief course lie all the realities and verities of existence: the bliss of growth, the glory of action, the splendor of beauty. For yesterday is but a dream, and tomorrow only a vision. But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore, to this day; for it alone is life! Such is the salutation to the dawn.”
— Sanskrit Prayer of The Dawn
Fourth Step is to Meditate – Practice your good, positive thoughts. Silent meditation, chanting, recitation, journaling.
Fifth Step is to use Practical Positive Thinking to realistically plan your course of action. At this point, your visualization and your practical planning enlist your motivation, preparing you for action.
Sixth Step is to Take Action — You act, moving closer to your goal. If your goal-of-concern is improvement of a Virtue, each Act is a unit of Practice — changing habit, building character. “As you act, so shall you become.” And you practice – repeat — your good actions. If your goal is a creative achievement, each Action accomplishes a step toward that goal, and also builds your skills.
Seventh Step is Review and Evaluate – Look at the effects of your action – the effects on others, on Earth, and on yourself. What lessons did you learn? What amends do you need to make? What adjustments will you make in your future behavior?
Eighth Step is to Increase the power of the first six Steps by participating in a community that shares your goals. It is much easier to reach life goals if people close to you are doing the same. You will offer each other encouragement, feedback, advice and support. This function can be performed by professional societies, meditation classes, churches, book discussion groups, self-help meetings, sports teams, and simply close friends and relatives.
Additional Comments on How the Eight Steps Can Relate to Character Development
These Eight Steps establish a self-reinforcing feedback loop, from thought, to action, and from action back into thought. So, thoughts form actions, and then actions feedback to form thoughts. Thoughts and actions together contribute to G>O>D>.
The Eight Steps can be employed to achieve Good Character, and to achieve the Six Elements of a Happy and Fulfilled Life.
It can be very helpful to contemplate your personal “daily inventory” before going to sleep each night, reviewing your handling of the day’s interactions – the well-done and the poorly-performed. Resolve to do things better – to “Practice your Virtues” – on the next day.
In the morning, it is particularly helpful to keep a written meditation called a “Gratitude List,” of the things in your life you appreciate, celebrate, embrace, or affirm. Try not to list the same thing twice in the same year. Be sure to include both big things and small things in your lists. Conclude with an “action plan” for the next day.
Other Daily Practices
It very much helps to have a list of Routine Practices, that you do repeatedly at intervals during your day, month, or year. Some of these are:
- The morning and evening directed meditations we just described.
- Family communication at dinner or supper table
- A daily period of quiet time talking with your life-partner.
- A daily period of quiet time talking with your children.
- A weekly or monthly time of conversations with your friends.
- Read a story to your children, tuck them in, and say goodnight.
Three Appendices Are Attached to this Essay
APPENDIX A: Further Discussion of Forgiveness, Justice and Revenge
APPENDIX B: Are There Virtues for Governments? For Organizations?
APPENDIX C: Historical Lists of Virtues
APPENDIX A: FURTHER DISCUSSION OF FORGIVENESS, JUSTICE, & REVENGE
As we discussed earlier in this Essay, Acceptance, Letting-Go, Forgetting, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation are all Virtues that help build a healthy spirit. They do so by removing resentments from our minds and spirits, because harboring resentment preoccupies the Mind with anger and negativity. As the saying goes, “Harboring resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
However, it would work against justice, fairness, and self-respect to fail to react to the wrongs that are done to us. This is especially true when a wrong has been done both to us and to other people around us. We might be able to immediately set aside a wrong, but society has a very different timetable and different criteria for “forgetting and forgiving” a crime. So we need a practical guide for handling wrongs that are done to us.
“As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.’
– the poem, Desiderata
Followers of the Book of G>O>D> should use the following “decision tree” when trying to decide how to handle a wrong that has been done to us. This decision tree uses the definitions of Acceptance, Letting-go, Forgiveness, Reconciliation, and Forgetting that we established earlier in the Chapter.
Note: Many readers may find this Appendix A to be legalistic, and may elect to skip over it. This Appendix is legalistic, but it illustrates the practical difficulty we all have in applying Morals and Virtues to complex, real-life situations.
Is the Wrong Done to You Major or Minor?
First, we ask if the wrong is major or minor; and if it an isolated case or a repetitive behavior. If the wrong is minor and non-recurring, it is best to just let it pass without reacting.
Wrongs that Are Illegal
Serious or repetitive wrongs that also violate criminal law should be prosecuted in criminal court to full extent of the law. Serious wrongs of a financial nature should be pursued by lawsuits brought in civil court.
Wrongs that are illegal (e.g., civil rights violations) can also be taken the an employer’s human resources department, or reported to a federal or state agency that has administrative jurisdiction.
Wrongs that are illegal (e.g., gender discrimination) can also be taken to an employer’s human resources department, or reported to a federal or state agency that has administrative jurisdiction.
Wrongs that Are Not Illegal
If the injury is not a crime; or if it is a crime but it is past the statute of limitations, not provable, or impractical to bring to the courts of law, then —
A. When the Offender Holds Power Over You
Ask yourself: Does the offender hold power over you. If so, consider these two examples:
- The offender is your boss and you need the income from your job. If the offender is your boss, ask yourself if continuing on in the job is really worth it. If the income and/or security is not really worth it, find a new job, quit the old job, and forget
- The offender is your parent, child, sibling, or spouse. In this case, you can seek counseling and/or apply for divorce or emancipation.
B. When the Offender Does Not Hold Power Over You
If the offender does not hold power over you, then verbally confront the offender.
Demand Restitution and/or an Apology, depending on the circumstances.
1. Adequate Apology and/or Restitution Received – Forgive and Forget
2. If no adequate restitution or apology is forthcoming, ask yourself – “Does the Offender have other, non-economic, value either for for you or for Continuing Creation as a whole?”
a. When the Offender Still Has Significant Value
The offender may have value to you, or to Continuing Creation as a whole that outweighs the damage he or she has done to you. For example, if the offender is a beloved relative, a close friend, or a renowned cancer researcher. If so, you may elect to let the offender off the hook, Forgive, and then try to Reconcile.
The Practice of Continuing Creation says – Letting someone who is not close to you “off the hook” only makes sense If we judge that Continuing Creation will be better off if the offender is given a pass than it would be if he or she undergoes Redress & Reform (as described below).
For example, a person who works hard for a worthwhile charity may be let off the hook for a minor, one-time theft from petty cash.
b. When the Offender Go has Little Value for You or for Continuing Creation
If you judge the Offender to have little or no value for you or for Continuing Creation as a whole, then skip Forgiving, skip “letting off the hook,” and undertake “Redress,” provided that the redress is not illegal, harms no innocent bystanders, and is clearly less than proportional to the Wrong.
Consider the following old saying: “Don’t Get Mad, Get Even.” The first part of this saying is “Don’t get mad.” Why? Because it’s feeling mad that eats you up inside. Use Zen and other meditative approaches to eliminate your anger and resentment. Redress and Reform should only happen after calm minds have considered both the law and the circumstances.
Restitution and/or apology from the offender would have “gotten you even,” but we’ve already assumed that those things are not forthcoming in this set of cases.
Why proceed to Redress and Reform in these cases? Why not just always “Walk away and (try to) Forget? Many would argue that, “Redress and Reform, like Revenge, may be a cure for feeling mad; but so is Forgiving and Forgetting.” That is true, but….
Redress and Reform
Redress is when the offender receives an appropriate rebuke or penalty, even it it’s from some extra-judicial source.
Reform is when you or someone else persuades the offender to change his or her ways.
The Path of Continuing Creation says — Redress and Reform has the advantage of achieving justice, whereas Forgiving and Forgetting do not. You are an Active, Intelligent, Agent of G>O>D> – the Growing, Organizing Direction Universe. As such, you surely have the right to act as an agent that achieves justice. In fact, don’t you have a responsibility to achieve justice – for yourself, for your family, and for Continuing Creation?
Examples of Appropriate and Proportionate Redress and Reform:
Your boss has treated you unfairly, and refuses to apologize. You comp[lain to your Boss’ boss, who agrees with you and then upbraids your boss.
A tradesman cheats you by overcharging and/or doing shoddy work. You give him an accurate, negative review on Craig’s list, or with the Better Business Bureau, etc. (Be sure to save all your documentation.)
A waiter, nurse, or clerk mishandles your work or is exceedingly rude. You write a strong letter of complaint to the person’s supervisor, and/or to the head of the organization.
A school is doing a terrible job of educating your child. You attend PTA meetings, maybe even run for the School Board — vocalizing your concerns at meetings.
People whose lives have been damaged by alcoholics often join “Al-Anon,” where they learn to establish boundaries, or MADD – Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.
People who feel the Earth is threatened by big oil and big industry join the Sierra Club or other environmental activist organizations.
APPENDIX B: ARE THERE VIRTUES FOR GOVERNMENTS? FOR ORGANIZATIONS?
Are there Virtues for Governments?
In our Essay on Living a Moral Life, we presented a List of Moral Precepts for Governments. Can governments also have Virtues, over and above their moral precepts?
The Book of G>O>D> says — No, we do not think so. After governments follow their moral precepts, they should cease their work. That government is best which governs least. Also, government should not do anything beyond what the law requires, as evidenced by the laws that have been passed. So — people have Virtues; governments have laws.
Are there Virtues for Organizations?
Even though governments should not have a List of Virtues, voluntary organizations can easily have them, depending on the purpose and scope of the organization.
For example, the Seven Unitarian Universalist Principles are such a List of Virtues for “UU” Churches and Congregations:
The Seven Unitarian-Universalist Principles
We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote:
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
- Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
- Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
- A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
- The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
- The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
APPENDIX C: HISTORICAL LISTS OF VIRTUES
A number of important Lists of Virtues have been developed in different cultures over the ages. This Appendix presents some of them, for reference. These and others can also be studied online. Note how similar the virtues are across all Human cultures.
The Pattern of G>O>D> says — Clearly, basic Human virtues naturally emerge from Humans evolving as social animals. Nearly all the Virtues in these lists are customs that have proved, over the millennia, to optimize the effectiveness of Humans living, working, and fighting in groups and tribes.
In 1998, Psychologists Martin Seligman and Chris Peterson made a wide-ranging survey of cultures and made lists of their virtues. They were able to group a very large majority of the total virtues into six families. Within each of the 6 families, they discerned a number of repeating strengths of character, all as follows.
- Wisdom: curiosity, love of learning, judgment, ingenuity, emotional intelligence, perspective.
- Courage: valor, perseverance, integrity
- Humanity: Kindness, Loving
- Justice: Citizenship, Fairness, Leadership
- Temperance: Self-control, Prudence, Humility
- Transcendence: appreciation of beauty & excellence, gratitude, hope, spirituality, forgiveness, humor, zest [We practitioners of G>O>D> would call these the Virtues of Spirituality. And optimism would also be one of them.]
(Jonathon Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis, pp 167-9.)
The Cardinal Virtues:
The four Cardinal Virtues are also known and the Platonic Virtues, because the Ancient Greek philosopher Plato. considered them to be foremost among all virtues.
Early Christian Church theologians adopted these same Cardinal Virtues and considered them to be equally important for all people, whether they were Christian or not.
The Primary Roman Virtues
“Auctoritas – “spiritual authority” – the sense of one’s social standing, built up through experience, Pietas, and Industria. This was considered to be essential for a magistrate’s ability to enforce law and order.
Comitas – “humour” – ease of manner, courtesy, openness, and friendliness.
Constantia – “perseverance” – military stamina, as well as general mental and physical endurance in the face of hardship.
Clementia – “mercy” – mildness and gentleness, and the ability to set aside previous transgressions.
Dignitas – “dignity” – a sense of self-worth, personal self-respect and self-esteem.
Disciplina – “discipline” – considered essential to military excellence; also connotes adherence to the legal system, and upholding the duties of citizenship.
Firmitas – “tenacity” – strength of mind, and the ability to stick to one’s purpose at hand without wavering.
Frugalitas – “frugality” – economy and simplicity in lifestyle, without being miserly.
Gravitas – “gravity” – a sense of the importance of the matter at hand; responsibility, and being earnest.
Honestas – “respectability” – the image that one presents as a respectable member of society.
Humanitas – “humanity” – refinement, civilization, learning, and generally being cultured.
Industria – “industriousness” – hard work.
Iustitia – “justice” – sense of moral worth to an action; personified by the goddess Iustitia, the Roman counterpart to the Greek Themis.
Pietas – “dutifulness” – more than religious piety; a respect for the natural order: socially, politically, and religiously. Includes ideas of patriotism, fulfillment of pious obligation to the gods, and honoring other human beings, especially in terms of the patron and client relationship, considered essential to an orderly society.
Prudentia – “prudence” – foresight, wisdom, and personal discretion.
Salubritas – “wholesomeness” – general health and cleanliness, personified in the deity Salus.
Severitas – “sternness” – self-control, considered to be tied directly to the virtue of gravitas.
Veritas – “truthfulness” – honesty in dealing with others, personified by the goddess Veritas. Veritas, being the mother of Virtus, was considered the root of all virtue; a person living an honest life was bound to be virtuous.
Virtus – “manliness” – valor, excellence, courage, character, and worth. ‘Vir’ is Latin for “man”.”
(from Wikipedia entry on “Virtue.”)
The Contrary Virtues:
Note how different the Contrary Virtues are from the Roman Virtues. The former are idealistic and passive; the latter are practical and assertive.
The Contrary Virtues, which we cited above in discussing the Seven Deadly Sins, were derived from the Psychomachia (“Battle for the Soul”), an epic poem written by Prudentius (c. 410). Practicing these virtues is alleged to protect one against temptation toward the Seven Deadly Sins. We discussed these Virtues in the body of this chapter, above.
The Theological Virtues
The early Christian Church developed a list of Three Theological Virtues:
St. Paul defined the three chief virtues as love, which was the essential nature of God, hope, and faith. Christian Church authorities called them the three theological virtues because they believed the virtues were not natural to man in his fallen state, but were conferred at baptism.
We discussed Charity in our Essay, LEADING A MORAL LIFE. “Hope” and “Faith” are not Virtues within the Path of G>O>D>, because they contradict common sense. “Faith” and “Hope” are talking oneself into expecting good outcomes, even when their probability is very low. For followers of the Book of G>O>D>, the Virtues of “Optimism” and “Determination” make much more sense than do “Faith” and “Hope.”
The Seven Corporal Works of Mercy
The Christian Church assembled a list of seven good works that was included in medieval catechisms. They are:
- Feed the hungry,
- Give drink to the thirsty,
- Give shelter to strangers,
- Clothe the naked,
- Visit the sick,
- Minister to prisoners, and
- Bury the dead.
We have said that in Taoism, Virtue is expected to arise naturally when a person follows the Tao – The Way. This “natural virtue,” which is also a natural power within a person’s character, is called Te, (usually translated as virtue). Cultivation of one’s Te is an important part of Taoist spiritual practice.
In the time of early Taoism, the detailed teaching of day-to-day “situational virtue” was left largely to Confucianism. Still, there are passages in the Tao Te Ch’ing which clearly speak of virtue:In the time or early Taoism, the teaching of “virtue” was left largely to Confucianism. Still, there are passages in the Tao Te Ch’ing which speak of virtue:
In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple,
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don’t try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.
— Tao Te Ch’ing, Chapter 8
Giving birth and nourishing,
Having without possessing,
Acting with no expectations,
Leading and not trying to control;
This is the supreme virtue
— Tao Te Ch’ing, Chapter 10
In Hinduism, Virtue cannot be imposed but must be voluntarily realized and lived by each individual.
The Indian scholar Manusamhita listed five key Virtues present in the Hindu sacred texts — the Vedas and the Upanishads. These five are:
- Non-violence (Ahimsa)
- Self-restraint (Dama)
- Non-covetousness or Non-stealing (Asteya)
- Inner purity (Saucha)
- Truthfulness (Satyam)
(Gupta, B. (2006). BHAGAVAD GĪTĀ AS DUTY AND VIRTUE ETHICS. Journal of Religious Ethics, 34(3), 373-395.)
Interestingly, the Hindu Virtues include Non-violence, whereas the Roman Virtues include Manliness (Virtus) which encompasses the military Virtues of courage and bravery.
Gandhi’s Perilous Traits
The Indian spiritual and political leader Mohandas Gandhi considered these traits to be the most spiritually perilous to humanity. In other words, these are Gandhi’s “List of Vices.”
- Wealth without Work
- Pleasure without Conscience
- Science without Humanity
- Knowledge without Character
- Politics without Principle
- Commerce without Morality
- Worship without Sacrifice
Buddhism’s Noble Eight-fold Path
The eight components of the Noble Eightfold Path fall under the “three aggregates” of discernment (wisdom), conduct (practice), and concentration (discipline), as follows:
- Discernment (or Wisdom) = right view and right resolve
- Conduct (or Practice) = right speech, right action, and right livelihood
- Concentration (or Discipline) = right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration
Alternatively, Johnathan Haidt writes that the eight components of Buddha’s Noble Path are best divided into two groups:
- Those that create an ethical person (right Speech, right action, right livelihood), and
- Those that create a mentally disciplined person (right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration) Note that Professor Haidt does not mention right view and right resolve, but they would also seem to fit into “2.”
(Source: Jonathan Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis, p. 160.)
The Noble Eight-fold Path is discussed further in our Essay, THE SEVEN STEPS OF DAILY GROWTH
Benjamin Franklin’s Thirteen Virtues
In 1726, at the age of 20, Benjamin Franklin created a system to develop his character. In his autobiography, Franklin listed his Thirteen Virtues as:
- Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
- Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
- Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
- Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
- Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
- Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
- Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
- Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
- Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
- Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
- Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
- Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
- Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
(Lists of Islamic Virtues can be compiled from the verses of the Koran. The following List of Islamic Virtues is taken from the website, islamondemand.com)
The Islamic Virtues are very comprehensive, and the cover both the spiritual and practical aspects of life.
- “Do no evil nor mischief on the (face of the) earth.” (2:60) “Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong.” (3:104)
- “Do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are of kin, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet), and what your right hands possess.” (4:36)
- “Give of the good things which you have (honorably) earned, and of the fruits of the earth which We have produced for you.” (2:267)
- “By no means shall you attain righteousness unless you give (freely) of that which you love.” (3:92)
- “Eat of the good things that We have provided for you, and be grateful to God, if it is Him you worship.” (2:172)
- “Show gratitude to Me and to your parents: to Me is (your final) Goal.” (31:14)
- “In no wise covet those things in which God has bestowed His gifts more freely on some of you than on others: to men is allotted what they earn, and to women what they earn: but ask God of His bounty.” (4:32)
- “Call on your Lord with humility and in private: for God loves not those who trespass beyond bounds.” (7:55)
- “Celebrate the praises of your Lord, and be of those who prostrate themselves in adoration.” (15:98)
- “God loves those who are kind.” (5:13)
- “We have enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents: in travail upon travail did his mother bear him, and in years twain was his weaning.” (31:14)
- “Treat not the orphan with harshness, nor repulse him who asks.” (93:9-10)
- “When a (courteous) greeting is offered you, meet it with a greeting still more courteous, or of equal courtesy. God takes careful account of all things.” (4:86)
- “Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)
- “[God] loves those who keep themselves pure and clean.” (2:222)
- “When you prepare for prayer, wash your faces, and your hands (and arms) to the elbows. Rub your heads (with water) and (wash) your feet to the ankles. If you are in a state of ceremonial impurity, bathe your whole body… God does not wish to place you in a difficulty, but to make you clean.” (5:6)
- “Say to My servants that they should (only) say those things that are best: for Satan does sow dissensions among them.” (17:53)
- Woe to every (kind of) scandal-monger and backbiter.” (104:1)
- “Enter not houses other than your own, until you have asked permission and saluted those in them: that is best for you, in order that you may heed (what is seemly).” (24:27-28)
- “Avoid suspicion as much (as possible): for suspicion in some cases is a sin: and spy not on each other, nor speak ill of each other behind their backs. (49:12)
- “Invite (all) to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious.” (16:125)
- “Say: ‘O People of the Book, come to common terms as between us and you: That we worship none but God; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, lords and patrons other than God.’ If then they turn back, say you: ‘Bear witness that we (at least) are Muslims (bowing to God’s Will).'” (3:64)
- “If it had been your Lord’s Will, they would all have believed, all who are on earth! Will you then compel mankind, against their will, to believe!” (10:99)
- “Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for God can best protect both. (4:135)
- “God loves those who judge in equity.” (5:42)
- “Take not life, which God hath made sacred, except by way of justice and law.” (6:151)
- “If the debtor is in a difficulty, grant him time till it is easy for him to repay. But if you remit it by way of charity, that is best for you if you only knew.” (2:280)
- “Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (15:85)
- “(It is) for those who believe and put their trust in their Lord… when they are angry even then forgive.” (42:36-37)
- “(It is) for those who believe… when an oppressive wrong is inflicted on them, (are not cowed but) help and defend themselves.” (42:36-39)
- “Fear God, and make your utterance straight forward: That He may make your conduct whole and sound.” (33:70-71)
- “Here is a plain statement to men, a guidance and instruction to those who fear God. So lose not heart, nor fall into despair: For you must gain mastery if you are true in Faith.” (3:138-139)
- “What is with you must vanish: what is with God will endure. And We will certainly bestow, on those who patiently persevere, their reward according to the best of their actions.” (16:96)
- “Seek the forgiveness of your Lord, and turn to Him in repentance; that He may grant you enjoyment, good (and true), for a term appointed.” (11:3)
- “Your Lord knows best what is in your hearts: If you do deeds of righteousness, verily He is Most Forgiving to those who turn to Him again and again (in true penitence).” (17:25)
Patience / Perseverance
- “On no soul does God place a burden greater than it can bear. It gets every good that it earns, and it suffers every ill that it earns.” (2:286)
- “Pray for help from God, and (wait) in patience and constancy: for the earth is God’s, to give as a heritage to such of His servants as He pleases; and the end is (best) for the righteous.” (7:128)
- “Bow down, prostrate yourselves, and adore your Lord; and do good; that you may prosper. And strive in His cause as you ought to strive (with sincerity and under discipline).” (22:77-78)
- “Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint.” (2:183)
- “[Do not follow] the lust (of your heart), for it will mislead you from the Path of God.” (38:26)
Balance / Moderation
- “Commit no excess: for God loves not those given to excess.” (5:87)
- “And the servants of (God) Most Gracious are those who… when they spend, are not extravagant and not niggardly, but hold a just (balance) between those (extremes).” (25:63-67)
- “When you deal with each other, in transactions involving future obligations in a fixed period of time, reduce them to writing… (2:282)
- “If a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lest you harm people unwittingly, and afterwards become full of repentance for what you have done.” (49:6)
- “Eat not up your property among yourselves in vanities.” (4:29)
- “Waste not by excess: for God loves not the wasters.” (6:141)
- “God will never change the grace which He hath bestowed on a people until they change what is in their (own) souls.” (8:53)
- “Woe to the worshippers… who (want but) to be seen.” (107:4-6)
- “Whoever recommends and helps a good cause becomes a partner therein: And whoever recommends and helps an evil cause, shares in its burden.” (4:85)
- “If one of you deposits a thing on trust with another, let the trustee (faithfully) discharge his trust, and let him fear God.” (2:283)
- “God does command you to render back your trusts to those to whom they are due.” (4:58)
- “Fulfill (every) engagement, for (every) engagement will be inquired into (on the Day of Reckoning).” (17:34)
Honesty / Fairness
- “Cover not Truth with falsehood, nor conceal the Truth when you know (what it is).” (2:42)
- “Take not your oaths, to practice deception between yourselves.” (16:94)
- “Woe to those that deal in fraud, – Those who, when they have to receive by measure from men, exact full measure, but when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due.” (83:1-3)
- “Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, – there are indeed Signs for men of understanding,… contemplate the (wonders of) creation in the heavens and the earth, (with the thought): ‘Our Lord! not for naught have You created (all) this!” (3:190-191)
- “True, there is for you by day prolonged occupation with ordinary duties: But keep in remembrance the name of your Lord and devote yourself to Him whole-heartedly. (He is) Lord of the East and the West: there is no god but He: take Him therefore for (your) Disposer of Affairs.” (73:7-9)
This Essay edited 12-19-17