Can We Talk About Virtue for a Moment?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

There’s loads of talk in the media and online about “polarization,” and I think it’s the right time to bring up virtue.

Many of us have been trained to think of “virtue” as the opposite of “vice.” That’s an imperfect comparison because, in reality, virtue lies between the extremes of vice on either end of the spectrum. Aristotle and later, St Thomas Aquinas, called this idea “The Golden Mean.” I think the idea illustrates the need for mature thinking and restraint – don’t let the pendulum pull you to vice.

Virtue Isn’t Inaccessible

Some often think of “virtue” as some sort of antiquated and inaccessible ideal – not applicable to the “real world” or only applicable to someone else. But virtue is not merely for saints and firefighters. All of us benefit from a society that embraces virtue with people who try their best to be virtuous. The Cardinal Virtues of Prudence, Temperance, Justice, and Fortitude seem like they’re difficult or even from another time – but these are things we do every day.

When we make smart decisions about money or choose to hold our tongues instead of saying something mean, or even something as mundane as choosing the apple slices instead of fried potatoes at Chik-Fil-A, we’re using Prudence. Athletes and students exercise Temperance all the time when they choose to study or work out instead of sit on the couch and watch TV. Justice happens when we repay a debt or give someone credit for a job well done. Fortitude is when we show moral or physical courage in the face of adversity. Good people and even not-so-good people do these things all the time.

Back to the Golden Mean

In an age of extremism as an attempt to get attention for ourselves and our causes, we need to re-learn the value of the Golden Mean. Virtue lies between twin vices, not at the opposite end of them.

For example, “Courage” lies between the extremes of “Reckless Abandon” and “Cowardice.” It’s equally wrong to have complete disregard for your own safety and the safety of others, as it is to cower in safety while others are in need of your assistance. It’s not virtuous to take unneccessary chances, or refuse to risk yourself to save others, but it is virtuous to act when others need you.

The Middle Isn’t Moderate

We love to contrast the “Moderates” with the “Extremists,”  but I say a pox on both their houses. “Moderates,” at least the ones who seem to bend to the winds of society, stand for nothing. Their “True North” is whatever is popular at the moment. “Extremists” are grown up children clamoring for attention by banging on doors and attempting to shout people down. Neither of these examples strikes me as a particularly virtuous.

A virtuous person attempts to find common ground with others, but never compromises their core values. They don’t fall for the twin temptations at each end of the spectrum. It’s perfectly acceptable to advocate passionately for things we believe in. Where we cross the line is when we descend into vice in the service of our positions. That’s a line we cross at our own peril. Compromise and working together is virtuous, but we must never sacrifice principle on the altar of compromise.

Paraphrasing Aquinas, when we do Good and reject Evil we elevate ourselves and those around us. Truth and Good are objective realities – such things are not subject to opinion polls or how many “Likes” we get on our tweet.

Until we recover the idea of Virtue with a Capital V, we can never hope to live in a just civilization. For Aristotle, “Virtue” was the way mature, well-formed humans lived in harmony with others. Aquinas added a Christian view to that idea, living in harmony with others and God, but the idea is the same: grown-ups need to act like, well, grown-ups.


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Get Your Copy of The 5 Be’s Today!

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Announcements, Books, The Five Be's

I’m excited to announce my latest title now available in pocketbook from Lead The Way Media!

Logo Cover - FrontIn a world full of “no” and “don’t”, The 5 Be’s For Starting Out is a positive vision of who to “Be.” Based on a lifetime of mentoring young adults, The 5 Be’s is a roadmap to living a healthy, fulfilling, and successful life!

  • Be Proud Of Who You Are: Everyone has something to contribute — and so do you!
  • Be Free: Authentic freedom means having the ability to choose what’s good for you!
  • Be Virtuous: The virtues are the “guardrails” for success in life!
  • Be Balanced:  Keep your Mind, Body, and Spirit nourished to  keep your balance!
  • Be Courageous: Courage comes in many forms: physical and moral courage — find yours!

The 5 Be’s For Starting Out was a huge hit at a recent industry conference, and I’m proud to offer it as a pocketbook. It will also be available as an ebook soon! The 5 Be’s  makes a great stocking stuffer for the young adult in your life–or anyone looking to make a fresh start.

Click the button below to get your copy now!

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The Five Be’s

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Practical Leadership, The Five Be's

I’ve noticed organizations and institutions spend a lot of time telling young people the “don’ts”, we spend very little time telling them the “do’s”, or who we want them to be. The rules are important, everyone needs boundaries, but if we don’t give our young people some positive vision of the kind of people we want them to become then we’re setting the bar very low.  Aspiration to become a person of character is more important than rules, because the reason the rules exist in the first place is to inspire people to reach goals and achieve.

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Over the years leading young adults and teens both in the military and out, I developed “The Five Be’s” as a way to communicate who I wanted them to be. The Five Be’s are my vision for what a grounded, healthy adult looks like. It’s my hope young people will be inspired to “be all they can be” and live integrated lives of consequence and character.

1. Be Proud Of Who You Are.

Each person has something about them that makes them special. A person’s path through life and the sum of their experiences, good or bad, make them who they are. Everyone has something to contribute.

2. Be Free.

Never be a slave to your own passions or appetites, and the same goes for others. Being truly free doesn’t mean “anything goes,” it means being able to choose what’s good for you. There is a difference between “freedom” and “license”; being free means being able to know right from wrong, and freely choose right over wrong.

3. Be Virtuous.

The view of virtue we accept in 21st Century America has a long history in the West, beginning with the ancient Greek philosophers and tracing its path through Western civilization. These Cardinal Virtues remain a part of our conversation today because they work: healthy and successful people often display these qualities.

There are four Classical “Cardinal” or principal virtues:

Prudence – making the right decisions

Justice – doing what’s right

Restraint – taking/doing only enough and not overdoing it

Fortitude – enduring trials

4. Be Balanced.

Keeping all aspects of life in the proper perspective is a great pathway to success. A healthy work ethic in balance with home life and personal development is a great recipe for a successful person. What’s more, people with their life in balance have the ability to “sprint” when the need arises.

5. Be Courageous.

Unless you’re a emergency responder or military servicemember then it’s not likely most people will need to demonstrate physical courage. However, most of us are called to demonstrate moral courage regularly. Do we sign out on the report or do the inventory? Admit our mistake or cover it up? Confront inappropriate behavior or turn or heads?  Developing courage when it’s necessary is important for a leader and at every stage in life.