Living the Virtues in Everyday Life


Leading a virtuous life sounds like something that is just for the superreligious people out there. But it is really something each one of us can aim for. God gives us the awesome gifts of the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. Plus there are a ton of other virtues that we can develop on our own.

For example, there are the virtues of temperance, prudence, courage, and justice. These virtues came from classic Western philosophy (think Plato and Aristotle) and were repackaged by Church heavyweights such as Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas so that they connected with the Christian faith. These four virtues are known as the cardinal virtues because they are critical to forming our moral values and guiding our behavior. In addition to the cardinal virtues, there are many other virtues that we can develop. Check out Isaiah 11:2 and Galatians 5:22-23 for more. You’ll find many places on the Internet that list virtues that are recognized in different cultures. Wikipedia’s entry on "virtue" lists 100 virtues that are commonly recognized in Western culture.

Once you’ve had a chance to look at all the different virtues out there, you begin to see that there is quite a range to choose from. Did you know that good humor is a virtue? Imagination and curiosity are also virtues. All of a sudden, leading a virtuous life might not seem half bad. Who wouldn’t want to be creative, happy, courageous, trustworthy, or focused? We might not label these things as “virtues” or make them top priority, but the fact is, most of us live the virtues every day. Even something as small as being tactful or friendly is virtuous.

The upshot is that leading a virtuous life is not just for the superreligious (if there even is such a thing). It’s for you and me and for all people who want to be true to themselves. Living the virtues helps us be real and go after our dreams. Living the virtues helps us be more aware of the people around us and help them when we can. Living the virtues helps us see the beauty in the world, especially in nature, and moves us to care for these as the precious gifts they are. Living the virtues helps us get more in tune with God.

Spend some time looking over the virtues, especially the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. Read Chapter 13 of Saint Paul’s letter to the Corinthians in which he talks about what love means in our lives. Think about the virtues that you are already living in your life and what you’d like to develop. Above all, practice random acts of virtue whenever you have the chance!