As our world grows more complex, and we must confront hundreds of minuscule moral choices in any given week, how do we begin to define our characters?
Who we are is determined by how we choose to move through the world. Our choices define us, but how do we make those choices?
What influences our thoughts and actions?
Our good character is defined by certain virtues that we value as our moral code. However, knowing what those virtues are and why they are important is key to developing your personal operating system for life.
What are virtues, and why do we need them?
Virtues are the cornerstone of ethics and morality, impacting how we navigate our relationships with others and ourselves.
Living in alignment with these virtues affords us a more fulfilling life, one in which we intrinsically value the worth of humanity. A life of virtue means making the conscious choice to love and respect the world around you.
Virtues are important for a number of reasons. These traits help us navigate the uncertain waters of moral obligation, and bring us closer together as social beings.
Here are a few reasons why we ought to define our character by virtuous traits:
To help you figure out your moral code, we've put together a virtues list of 100 words and their meanings. Let's begin with one of the most famous lists of virtues.
Aristotle's List of Virtues
Philosophers have sought to understand the complicated arena of morality for hundreds of years. There are as many theories on how to live an ethical life as there are years spent attempting to understand it.
However, Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics is an excellent place to start when tackling the concept of living morally. He boils down these truths into 12 virtues to live by.
1. Courage- To not define yourself by fear, but to live bravely.
2. Temperance- To live in moderation and not seek joy from material wealth.
3. Liberality- To not restrict oneself but to live freely.
4. Magnificence- To be charismatic and move in style.
5. Magnanimity- To possess a spirit of generosity.
6. Ambition- To have a healthy pride in what one does.
7. Patience- To be of good temper. To have a calm manner of being.
8. Friendliness- To be social and receptive to forming relationships.
9. Truthfulness- To live honestly and with candor.
10. Wit- To find humor in the world and express it with joy.
11. Modesty- To regulate one’s ego.
12. Justice- To be guided by truth and a moral sense of right and wrong.
The Definitive List of Virtues
While Aristotle gives us a simple list of good virtues, the recipe for living well isn't always simple. His moral virtues list sketches out an outline of his more complex philosophical musings on ethics.
You don’t have to scour the philosophy section of your library to understand and value essential virtues. We have gathered an additional list of virtues and their definitions you can aspire to which will bring more balance to your life.
13. Acceptance – To be able to come to terms with what you cannot change.
14. Accountability – To hold yourself to what you say and to take ownership for what you have done.
15. Appreciation – To recognize the good you have been given and value the work of others.
16. Assertiveness – To take your place and take up space.
17. Authenticity – To be true to oneself, your spirit, and your nature.
18. Beauty – To possess pleasurable traits, physically and otherwise.
19. Caring – To show concern for your fellow man.
20. Certitude – To have conviction in what you believe.
21. Charity – To live with a spirit of giving. To love others through that spirit.
22. Courage – Mental and moral fortitude in the face of fear and uncertainty.
23. Cleanliness – The practice of being clean, keeping yourself, and the areas you inhabit in a clean state.
24. Commitment – To fulfill one’s agreements, to make a pledge regarding the future.
25. Compassion – The ability to empathize with the pain of others and to possess a desire to help alleviate that pain.
26. Confidence – To believe in one’s own potential for success.
27. Consideration – To think cautiously and pragmatically about your choices.
28. Contentment – To find happiness and fulfillment in your current state of being.
29. Cooperation – To work together in order to achieve together.
30. Courtesy – To consider the needs of others while making decisions for oneself.
31. Creativity – The power to conceive new ideas.
32. Decisiveness – The ability to effectively and quickly make choices and decisions.
33. Detachment – To be able to experience your emotions without allowing them to control or overwhelm you.
34. Determination – To be committed to achieving something difficult.
35. Devotion – A sense of loyalty and commitment.
36. Dignity – To possess self-control and a sense of honor.
37. Diligence – The intersection of persistence and care.
38. Discernment – The ability to analyze a difficult scenario and make a conscious decision as a result of your analysis.
39. Empathy – To be able to understand the feelings and emotional worlds of others.
40. Endurance – The ability to find strength and move forward in a continuous state of difficulty.
41. Enthusiasm – Excitement for something or someone you enjoy. To take an active interest in them.
42. Excellence- To be of the highest quality.
43. Fairness – To give equal weight to the treatment of people.
44. Faith – To have a strong belief in something.
45. Fidelity – Continuous faith in something or loyalty to someone or something.
46. Flexibility – A willingness to change or take part in a change.
47. Forbearance – A sense of restraint or self-control.
48. Forgiveness – To be able to forgive or able to be forgiven.
49. Fortitude – Strength or courage amidst adversity.
50. Generosity – To lack selfishness, and possess the qualities of kindness and a giving spirit.
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51. Gentleness – A quiet demeanor without malice.
52. Grace – To offer forgiveness before it is asked for.
53. Gratitude – To be thankful or to give thanks.
54. Helpfulness – The desire to help and follow through on that intention.
55. Honesty – To be truthful and trustworthy.
56. Honor – To respect what you believe to be right and good, and live through those beliefs.
57. Hope – To desire certain outcomes and believe in the potential of them coming true.
58. Humanity – To be in touch with your human nature.
59. Humility – To not believe yourself above others.
60. Idealism – A certain attitude that believes in the highest quality of living, especially in terms of living honestly and morally.
61. Independence – The ability to be alone and fulfilled with oneself. To be able to operate independently of others.
62. Initiative – The ability to take charge without waiting for others to do so.
63. Integrity – The ability to adhere to one’s moral code or sense of right and wrong.
64. Joyfulness- To be full of joy. To give and receive joy.
65. Kindness – The quality of being considerate and open to others.
66. Love- The strongest form of continued admiration and affection.
67. Loyalty – To be devoted and have a strong sense of allegiance to another person or idea.
68. Mercy – To be compassionate towards someone who has caused harm or pain.
69. Mindfulness- To be conscious of your presence, your surroundings, and your effect on them.
70. Moderation – To be reasonable in all measures. To avoid passing limitations set for a good purpose.
71. Openness – The state of being open to others without restriction.
72. Optimism- To have a sense of hope and excitement for the future.
73. Peacefulness – A state of calm and acceptance. To be tranquil.
74. Perceptiveness- The ability to analyze with a sense of keenness or intuition.
75. Perseverance – To be persistent in your actions despite the threat of fear and failure.
76. Purity – The lack of adulteration, to be free from immorality.
77. Purposefulness – To possess a sense of purpose. To move with reason.
78. Reliability – To be accountable for your promises and stay true to commitment.
79. Resilience – An ability to recover from hardship. To be able to move forward from a state of pain.
80. Respect – To have admiration for those with great abilities, in terms of their achievements or character.
81. Responsibility – A sense of duty when wielding power or purpose. To be responsible for someone or something.
82. Reverence – A deep sense of respect towards a person or thing.
83. Righteousness – To be morally good and right in your actions. To possess good character and make justifiable choices.
84. Sacrifice – The willingness to give up that which is important to you for the sake of others.
85. Self-discipline – The ability to regulate oneself and control your actions despite feelings of weakness. To continue on the just and right path despite the temptation to stray.
86. Serenity – To be at peace with oneself and others.
87. Service – The act of using your skills, privilege, time, and kindness towards helping others.
88. Simplicity – To be in a natural state or a state of ease. To discard unnecessary complications.
89. Sincerity – To say what you mean without pretense. To speak and take action without deceit.
90. Steadfastness – To be unwavering in one's choices. To be resolute.
91. Strength- The ability to persevere under pressure.
92. Tact- The ability to deal with difficult issues with sensitivity towards the parties involved.
93. Thoughtfulness- The ability to think through your actions and how they will affect others.
94. Tolerance – To respect the choices, behaviors, and states of being of others when they do not align with your personal beliefs.
95. Trust – A steadfast belief in someone or something.
96. Understanding – The ability to be sympathetic in your comprehension of others.
97. Unity – The state of being one. To join together to create a whole.
98. Wisdom – To possess good judgment, character, and knowledge due to experience.
99. Wonder – The mixture of admiration, awe, and curiosity towards something unknown or unfamiliar. Something that is often beautiful or sublime.
100. Zeal- To be enthusiastic in your pursuits.
Examples of Virtues
These types of virtues can be applied to many different practices. Here are a few examples of these virtues in action:
How will you use this list of virtues?
It is not always easy to live by our moral codes. These virtues are a guide rather than a strict set of rules. They provide a framework for living but not directions.
We all could work on improving some of the virtues listed here. In our culture today, we value certain virtues over others, making it even more difficult to know where to focus our energies.
For example, we are often rewarded for the virtue of ambition rather than compassion. Both are important, but everything in life requires balance and regular calibration.
Take time with this virtues list to find where you could use more balance. Write down specific actions you can take to improve these areas of your life. Then make a plan to implement the actions.
May your virtuous life bring you peace and contentment and serve as beacon to others searching for a life of integrity.