Values, Virtues, Morals, and Outcomes
Individually and collectively, our values are the positive aspects of life we are drawn to and want to exemplify. Virtues are the character traits and moral guidelines we seek to internalize that result in desirable repeated behaviors and outcomes. These all work together to hopefully serve the greater good and create a better world.
Whether from religious beliefs, humanist ethics, or simple observation, from a young age, we gain an understanding of what is "good" in life. Storybooks like "Aesop's Fables" inspire awareness of moral lessons and wisdom. Religious, civic, and youth organizations commonly strive to impart values and positive character traits to others. An example from the Scouting website states that a Scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent. Those characteristics could be considered values.
Because of the many ways values are instilled in us at an early age, this document will likely seem obvious and simplistic to some people. To others, the ideas presented here will be unfamiliar.
Some values and virtues are combined to form others. Just as hydrogen and oxygen combine to create water, patience, generosity, empathy, and selflessness are combined to create caring. In this way compound virtues draw upon other virtues as prerequisites.
Directory and Glossary
The list below defines some positive practices, principles, values, and virtues.
- Best Practices. These are practices, procedures, and workflows that follow agreed-upon rules and standards to achieve positive outcomes. It is implied that best practices are always reviewed and revised to make them better.
- Caring. When we care about others, we give them our attention, time, and support. The act of caring for others requires selflessness, patience, and generosity.
- Collaboration. The benefit of collaboration is found in the democratization of work that can bring a diverse group of people together to each share their unique skills and views. The ability to cooperate with others is strengthened through collaboration. Collective involvement, equal representation, and democratic participation are fostered by collaboration. Cooperation rather than competition can produce outcomes that are otherwise not possible.
- Commitment. Someone who is committed to a person or causes is persistent, dedicated, dependable, and reliable. Those who are committed to others are typically loyal to them and looking out for their best interests.
- Common Ground. Finding common ground helps people come together and work toward shared goals. This is usually a building block for collaboration.
- Compassion. The words "care" and "compassion" are similar. Compassion implies caring driven by empathy. When we care for others with empathy, our compassion helps us connect, listen, and be supportive.
- Confidence. Having confidence allows people to find meaning, purpose, satisfaction, and courage to accomplish more. Those who have confidence don't seek outwardly for satisfaction and self-worth. This creates independence. Confidence is partly based on our past experiences and our estimation of how well we will handle certain circumstances. Confidence is also an attitude.
- Cooperation. See Collaboration.
- Courage. See Confidence.
- Courtesy. The ability to be considerate of others helps us see the world around us and avoid narcissism. Courtesy sometimes relies on patience. An example would be letting someone go ahead of you at the grocery store checkout.
- Creativity. Artistic ability and the ability to solve complex problems both require creativity.
- Dedication. See Commitment.
- Determination. See Commitment.
- Diplomacy. The ability to work with others graciously helps promote cooperation and respect. This results in better outcomes that serve everyone's interests.
- Encouragement. Our words and actions should help inspire hope in others. Happiness promotes a relaxed life and an open mind.
- Equal Representation and Participation. See Collaboration.
- Forgiveness. Forgiveness can help everyone involved feel better and foster productive relationships. When people get stuck in unforgiveness, it slows them down. The ability to forgive people is like having a vehicle that doesn't get stuck in the mud, but continues moving forward.
- Friendship. Being a good friend requires patience, caring, sacrifice, and many other values.
- Generosity. Giving time, attention, and resources to people and causes is the act of being generous. We give because we care. Being generous involves stepping away from selfishness and narcissism.
- Giving Back. When we give back, it is a gesture of gratitude and appreciation. Usually, people give back as an expression of thanks to a community or school that has helped them succeed in life.
- Gratitude. Having a mindset of thankfulness allows a person to see and appreciate good in their life and acknowledge those who bring about that good. As we develop greater gratitude, we are more attentive and see more in life to appreciate.
- Habits. See routine.
- Happiness. See Joy.
- Hard Work. Having a good work ethic helps a person gain valuable skills and experience. This usually pays off in the present and the future.
- Health. Wellness is essential to our ability to enjoy life and be productive.
- Helping Others. When we care about others, we look for ways to be of help. Often helping others requires patience and selflessness.
- Honesty. Effective relationships rely on transparency and honesty. This reduces confusion and helps promote trust.
- Hope. See Optimism.
- Humility. Confidence is balanced by humility to give us a healthy mindset. When we can honestly assess our strengths, we face life more effectively.
- Ingenuity. See Creativity.
- Inspiration. See Encouragement.
- Integrity. When someone has integrity, we consider them to be honest, trustworthy and living by principles we value.
- Joy. Some people consider that happiness is fleeting, but joy is enduring. Yet, both terms are similar. Having a positive outlook and gratitude facilitate a joyful state.
- Laughter. People who are joyful tend to smile and laugh at whatever comes at them.
- Leadership. Leadership is considered a skill that everyone should aspire to at some point. It implies that the person has reached a level of success that brings trust and respect. Yet, in real life, we are all leaders and followers. There are people we look up to, and others who look to us for guidance or an example to follow. Leadership is really about making a personal choice to take on the workload and responsibilities required to oversee an initiative. Many people won't have an opportunity to become a famous social influencer, celebrity, wealthy entrepreneur, or politician. The most important kind of leadership is to live a virtuous life and be an example to those around us.
- Learning. The desire to learn is an expression of humility and a willingness to defer to others. We learn to gain skills that can help us help others more effectively. With greater knowledge and skill, we can reduce our efforts but increase our productivity and income potential.
- Listening. An important part of putting others first is the ability to listen well. Good listening helps us help others more effectively.
- Live Your Dreams. The choice to follow one's dreams is perceived as a binary choice, but it's possible to pursue what one enjoys while also maintaining the discipline required to do the difficult things in life, like getting a degree or certification in some trade.
- Love. Entire books have been written about this one word. An often-quoted text on love is 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, which states: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." [Source] This excerpt illustrates how love is a consolidation of many virtuous character traits.
- Loyalty. See Commitment.
- Making a Difference. The desire to have a positive impact in the world helps promote desire and purpose. When we care about others, those in the world now and future generations, we want to make the world better.
- Manners. Similar to courtesy, we show manners when we are polite and gracious with others.
- Opportunity Creator. The ability to see opportunity in the midst of difficulties requires a creative mind and groundedness. Opportunity creators change the future.
- Optimism. A positive attitude helps a person believe that good things will transpire. Sometimes this attitude is based on data, research, and observing trends. Sometimes not. A hopeful outlook can help inspire persistence.
- Overcoming. Those who are resilient can overcome adversity. This takes optimism combined with persistence, as well as the resources and skill required to overcome a challenge.
- Patience. Persistence, humility, and selflessness help us have patience. Patience is needed to accomplish many things in life. Patience helps one have deferred gratification.
- Peace. A state of peace is what we hope to achieve by working toward a tranquil and balanced world.
- Perseverance. When a person has determination and optimism, they can persevere with the hope of a positive outcome.
- Persistence. See Perseverance.
- Polite. Similar to manners, politeness refers to being gracious and courteous with others.
- Respect. Seeing the good in others and valuing their contributions promotes respect. Honoring people for their age, experience, and wisdom is a way of acknowledging and valuing the good they offer.
- Responsibility. Taking responsibility for what needs to be done often requires putting others first. It requires a desire to look outwardly and see where work or help is needed. Taking responsibility for mistakes is a sign of a good leader.
- Routine. Good habits and regular practices allow us to have routines that can be refined for greater outcomes.
- Sacrifice. When we are willing to forgo things we desire for the sake of giving to others, this is sacrifice. This typically requires caring or perhaps a sense of duty.
- Smiling. A nice smile and a cheerful demeanor help encourage others.
- Sourcing. Making choices based on sourcing shows a sense of responsibility. A concern about ethical sourcing conveys an awareness of one's impact. Products and services that don't diminish the qualify of life for workers or the planet are preferred.
- Strength. When one is strong in character, it usually means they have discipline, courage, and unwavering ethics. Physical strength can be a virtue when one uses their stamina to help others.
- Sustainability. We think of sustainability as equated to green and environmental goals. More broadly, sustainable practices are maintainable. A daily workout is sustainable if we can work it into our daily routine. So, a 3-hour daily workout probably isn't sustainable. A diet is sustainable if we enjoy it and can stick to it.
- Team Work. See Collaboration.
- Thankfulness. See Gratitude.
- Transparency. When we let others know our reasoning, abilities, biases, and motivations, we are transparent with them.
- Tradition. When we value and follow traditions, we are taking a moment to respect those who came before us. Sometimes traditions are best practices founded on experience and wisdom. Some traditions should be challenged. For example, a history of bigotry toward a group because of their nationality, race, gender, or other attributes is wrong and hurtful. It's unfair. It's also based typically based on irrational generalities. So, not all traditions need to be perpetuated.
- Trust. It's great to have relationships based on trust. When we trust someone, we believe they will be honest with us and treat us well. Trust in someone can convey that we trust their knowledge or skills. If we trust a carpenter, we believe they have the skills to complete a certain project on time and under budget.
- Understanding. Someone who is understanding makes an effort to listen and relate to our circumstances or feelings.
- Unity. Unity is a goal to have people working to achieve a common goal or follow shared principles.
- Vision. Having vision is a creative ability to plan long-term goals and consider the steps required to reach those goals.
- Volunteerism. The desire to give of our time through volunteerism is usually paired with generosity and caring. Also, see Generosity, Giving Back, and Reaching Out.
- Wellness. Attaining and maintaining wellness requires planning and discipline.
There are sometimes benefits to being virtuous and embracing the concepts listed above.
- We feel better about ourselves when we help others.
- Doing good gives a person meaning and purpose.
- It's nice when others express appreciation for something we've done.
- Doing the right thing and following best practices can help a person avoid life's vices and pitfalls. This results in greater effectiveness in all areas of life.
Doing good sometimes produces material rewards and garners public praise from others. However, one shouldn't do good with the expectation of a reward or praise. The choice to pursue a value-driven life should not be rewards-based. One should want to do good because it's the right thing to do. Here are some misguided reasons for living a virtuous life.
- Some people talk about values as a way of virtue signaling. Their understanding and commitment is superficial, and self-centered.
- Some people espouse morals as a way to elevate themselves and put others down. Leaders that excessively espouse morality and values are sometimes caught up in scandals and proven to be hypocrites. While not common, this is certainly newsworthy and gets much attention from those who have been targets of judgementalism and ridicule.
- Books have been written on the behaviors and interpersonal skills that can win friends and influence people. These books are well-meaning, but they can result in self-serving robotic behaviors that lack sincerity. One shouldn't use the appearance of a virtous life to manipulate others.
- Cult leaders and extremists will often use a list of values to legitimze themselves and their organizations. This is also done as a tool to win the trust of others. Words like duty, honor, devotion, obedience, and purity might be used excessively. Organization members might be punished or shunned for any deviation from absolute and perfect observation of all rules.
There are some people who don't believe it's possible to be truly selfless. They believe that every act of selflessness is somehow grounded in a selfish motive. Whatever example you provide, they will spin an interpretation that suggests a self-serving motive. Regardless of motive, or the extent to which someone may be aware of a personal benefit to doing good, we should do good anyway. Baselessly accusing people of underlying selfishness, or second-guessing people's motives is counterproductive. Someone with an anger problem may try to justify it, saying that getting angry is okay. They may try to portray anger as valuable and beneficial. When you're on a road called "Frustration and Dissapointment" you may at some point reach a fork in that road where you must decide between "Anger" or "Forgiveness and Letting Go." Anger is a response to circumstances, choosing other responses may be more beneficial.
Sometimes doing the right thing is a clear choice, but not always. Deciding between inaction and action, or which action to take, can be complicated in situations where one is choosing the least worst outcome. The Spike Lee film "Do the Right Thing" portrays the ethical complexities life can present us with. Reflecting on the list of benefits above, one realizes that there are some situations where regardless of what someone does, they won't please everyone. For example, when a whistleblower reports on corruption, rather than getting a reward and praise, they may get punished and publicly smeared.
[Revised: 11 Aug 2021 at 8:49 PM CT]