History of the Virtues

A virtue is a trait or quality believed to be morally excellent and valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being. The opposite of a virtue is a vice.

The lists of virtues created throughout history are a great, wait, scratch that, are the BEST set of guidelines EVER constructed to help mankind reach its potential.

As our society spins out of moral control and into sin city, it becomes harder and harder to be virtuous, not impossible, just harder. Between fast "food", skinny models, magazines telling us to lose weight and be fit, famous people cheating and lying and businesses robbing consumers blind, there is a place where many people have lost touch with certain morals and virtues, simply because they are trying to survive.

This doesn't make a person bad, well, some people sure are bad, but in general it means that someone is just going through the motions o f life, letting others tell them how to think, and not living up to their potential. This is all fine, unless of course you are somebody who wants to be all that you can be.

Why is it that so many people would rather watch reality shows and surf the internet than work on improving themselves and their virtues? Yes, there is little spare time these days, but as Socrates says, there is no such thing as time, only priorities. Benjamin Franklin believed that one should "lose no time" and always be employed in something useful by cutting off all unnecessary actions. These words of wisdom have been lost in mainstream marketing and the wide variety of "things" we have to do these days. Most of which have nothing to do with improving one's Self.

Most people have many great virtuous parts, but the key to reaching one's potential is to be virtuous in ALL of the parts. Plato believed virtue to be a single thing and that the numerous lists of "virtues" are merely pieces of what virtue actually is.
In other words, one is not virtuous if they only practice a fraction of the whole, and separating them into lists was only for the purpose of describing what virtue is made up of. How can one practice diligence without temperance? Or how can anyone consistently practice anything without faith and hope?

With virtue you can't be entirely poor;
without virtue you can't really be rich.

Chinese Proverb


Before we get to The 10 Core  Virtues, here's a snapshot of how they came about and who came about them...

360 BC - Cardinal Virtues

First it was Plato, in 360 B.C. who described four virtues; temperance, wisdom, justice and courage. These later became known as the Cardinal virtues.

56 AD - Theological Virtues

In his first letter to the Corinthians in about 56 AD St. Paul says, "And now abideth faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love" (I:13:13). The English word love for the third and greatest of the virtues was used by all of the English translators of the Bible in the 16th Century in place of the original word, charity.

* The 7 Heavenly Virtues are a combination of the Cardinal and Theological virtues.

375 AD - The 8 Terrible Temptations

A Christian monk, Evagrius Ponticus, was the first to list eight terrible temptations. They were, in order of increasing seriousness: gluttony, lust, avarice, sadness, anger, acedia, vainglory, and pride. Evagrius viewed the rising severity as representing increasing fixation with the self, with pride as the most offensive of the sins. Acedia (from the Greek "akedia," or "not to care") denoted "spiritual sloth."

410 AD - Contrary Virtues

The Contrary Virtues were derived from the Psychomachia ("Battle for the Soul"), an epic poem written by Prudentius in 410 AD. His poem did not list these sins and virtues as we know them now, but it was this poem and its talk of combating sins with virtues that started the Contrary Virtues.
Practicing these virtues is alleged to protect one against temptation toward the Seven Deadly Sins later constructed by Pope Gregory the Great: humility against pride, kindness against envy, abstinence against gluttony, chastity against lust, patience against anger, liberality against greed, and diligence against sloth.

590 AD - The 7 Deadly Sins

In the late 6th century, Pope Gregory the Great reduced The Terrible Temptations into seven items. He combined vainglory into pride, acedia into sadness, and added envy. His ranking of the Sins' seriousness was based on the degree from which they offended against love. It was, from most serious to least: pride, envy, anger, sadness, avarice, gluttony, and lust.
Later theologians, such as St. Thomas Aquinas, contradicted the notion that the offensiveness of these sins could be ranked this way. The term "greed" has historically been used interchangeably with "avarice" and in the seventeenth century, the Church replaced the vague sin of "sadness" with sloth.
The most common list now used is;
pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, gluttony, and lust.

How the 10 Core Virtues Lead to All Virtues

The 10 Core Virtues were not picked because 10 is a nice number. They were not picked at all really, they just happened to organize into an idea after studying virtues long enough to recognize their patterns and realize that one needs to focus on only a few, rather than the 100's to reap benefits from them all.
That is not to say focusing on the 10 Core Virtues is the only way to achieve virtuosity, but it is a great start and seems to be the most efficient way to become virtuous in all parts while focused on only a few.

The 10 Core Virtues and their Actions

By practicing The 10 Core Virtues one will automatically attract and become the actions they manifest, which are listed under "Actions Created" for each of the 10 Core Virtues.
A lot of time can be wasted focusing on a virtue listed under one of the "Actions Created" if its Core Virtue is the main issue. Learn how to spot your weaknesses and then strengthen them with the appropriate core virtue exercise.

Focus on the Core Virtues
and watch everything else fall into place.

Love   Purpose   Prudence   Faith   Gratitude   Purity   Temperance   Forgiveness   Humility   Wonder