The greatest virtues are those which are most useful to other persons. – Aristotle
What does that mean?
Let’s start with the definition of Virtue in the context of this saying. At thefreedictionary.com, virtue is defined as “Moral excellence and righteousness” and “A particularly efficacious, good, or beneficial quality”.
So, rephrasing slightly: the greatest beneficial quality is that which is most useful to other people. I think that it is fairly obvious that the most beneficial quality (virtue in this case) is the one that gives the greatest good to the greatest number of people.
Why is virtue important?
Virtue has many specific definitions. The Christian Cardinal Virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance, faith, hope, and charity, is one example. The Boy Scout Law is another: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent. But each can be defended as being good for the individual as well as the population at large.
If you think about it, what would society be without the virtues? If you take away justice, how well would society work? If you took away trust and trustworthiness, how would business be able to function? A society is defined by it’s virtues.
Think about the different periods of history, and how different societies are considered. The term barbarian used to just mean “stranger” in Ancient Greek, but is now used to describe the less virtuous societies. To us, the Huns (to pick on Attila and company) were barbarians as they lacked virtues that we take for granted in our societies today.
Compared to most of today’s societies, medieval Europe was lacking in several key virtues. But even back in the day, before Europe was subjected to the wanderings of the Hunnish people, the European cultures considered the Huns to be lacking in virtues.
I’m sure, in the Utopia that will come in the next few hundred years (if we don’t all kill each-other off before then), they will look at our civilizations and shake their heads and mutter about those poor barbaric people, so lacking in virtue.
Where can I apply this in my life?
What do you do that most impacts the lives of others? Perhaps it’s while at your job or some volunteer work you do, perhaps with your friends or a weekend class you teach. Write down three activities (scenarios) you do that have an impact with others. Write three down, even if they seem a bit feeble at the moment.
After we have gone through this, I hope you will either see a larger role for the rest of your list, or get ideas for other things to put on the list in their place. The basic idea is to determine how best to improve you in such a way that you will also, by your interactions with others, improve your community as well.
Select one of the three scenarios where you have impact, and write down what you believe are virtues that can help the other people. You can use the list of virtues I have in the paragraphs above, or you can use your own, based on your beliefs and values.
Did this much of the exercise get the creative juices flowing? Do you want to modify the situation where you have impact? If so, brainstorm what virtues apply to the new scenario.
Rank the list of virtues for this scenario. If you are a bank teller and see a lot of people each day, perhaps your greatest impact for the good of the largest number of customers is honesty, followed by cheerful and friendly. Look at each item on the list and try to determine how you can increase your impact.
Hopefully a bank teller is already honest to a fault, so you might look at how you can be more cheerful or friendly. If you already score yourself with top marks in those virtues, perhaps something lower on the list can be improved.
What do you have on your list? Start with one of your scenarios and make a list of three or more virtues that impact others. Sort the virtues in order of impact, with the first on the list impacting the most people (or impacting people the most) down to the least impactful of the virtues.
Rank your present level of impact from 1 (hardly doing it at all) to 10 (nobody does it better) for each of the virtues. Look at your list and see how each virtue is doing presently. If your top one or two have fairly low scores, then you know what to work on. If the first one or two have high marks, but the next one has a very low mark, that might be the one you work on instead.
Now that you have an idea about what virtue you will be trying to improve, it’s time to brainstorm. Come up with at least five different ways you can improve the effectiveness or frequency of use for that virtue, with a specific emphasis on using it in the scenario you initially described (at work, at home, etc).
With that done, look at the list of ways to improve yourself and select the one you think will be the easiest to complete. Brainstorm again to come up with how to accomplish this improvement.
For an example of the brainstorming ideas, we’ll go back to the bank teller. They rated fairly high on honesty, but fairly low on cheerfulness, so that’s what they are going to work on.
To help with this, the teller came up with the following ideas for how to make it work. Remember to smile more. Take a deep breath and release tension from prior customer before calling the next customer.
Think of something that you really like or is funny, to help make the smile more natural. Say a canned saying as the customer arrives that reinforces a smile, like “we’re so happy you chose our bank, what can I assist you with today?”
Now that you have some ideas, consider which one you want to start with and determine how you are going to implement it (strategy (plan) and tactics (methods), from the two prior posts).
After the brainstorming, the bank teller decided to make a little check list to put on the wall next to their window as a way to remind them of what to do before they engage the next customer.
They also added a great big “smiley-face” to help draw their attention to the list and to remind them to smile. The list allows them to attempt to use more than one of the ideas they brainstormed, and to be able to add methods later.
How is your list looking? Work your way through the scenarios you wrote, or put together a few new ones. Does it look like you’ve got a few ideas on how to improve your life by getting better at virtues? And how will your newly improved and extra virtuous self help the rest of your community? Hopefully it will have at least a minor impact for the better.
Just think of all the people out there, and how much nicer the world could be if everyone was just a little bit better, a little more virtuous and a impacted their own little community with a tiny positive push. Changing the world starts within. Ready? GO!
From: Twitter, undocumented feed (my bad)
confirmed at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/aristotle148507.html
Photo by ▓▒░ TORLEY ░▒▓