[NOTE: I previously posted this on Blogger on June 13, 2010.]
Cleaning out some old files last night, I came across a presentation that I made a number of years ago to a group of high school students on their induction into the National Honor Society. At the time I had been inspired by Don Trent Jacobs, who had taught on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. His writings and our subsequent conversations helped me formulate my thoughts for the students. On that evening in 2002, in a high school auditorium, the students and I examined the concepts of value and virtue. Here are a few of the takeaways.
A value is important to us; it might even be a life-driving force. A virtue, on the other hand, is something that has more universal implications and makes the world a better place. Values may or may not make the world a better place. A value without virtue can be dangerous. You may know people who value an end but that end does not make the world a better place.
Outside forces—usually someone else’s values—continually challenge us to stay on a virtuous path. As you confront life’s challenges nurture and draw on these virtues: courage, fortitude, patience, generosity, honesty, and humility. Each, in its own way, can give you the strength to continue to learn and grow.
Courage. Life is about courage; taking calculated risks; preserving in spite of fear. An old Seminole saying goes something like, “If you are not close to the edge, you are taking up too much room.” Think of a brave act you have accomplished. Think of the many risks you have taken. Draw on that same strength each day.
Fortitude. Learning is about the ability to stick with things. The ability to endure; the ability to do what is right and healthful. Think of the person who has stuck with you in times when you thought no one would. It could be a parent, a teacher, a boss, a friend, a spouse, a partner, a minister. Do the same for another living being.
Patience. Waiting, tolerance, not vengeful or seeking retribution. I have to admit, this is not one of my strong suits. (My idea of patience is to count to one!) When you find yourself being “short” with someone, try to count to at least two!
Generosity. Giving and sharing ideas, wealth, possessions, and time. Teachers, for example, give a lot more than facts and homework. They give their ears, their thoughts, their hearts and their time. A mentor gives without question or hesitation. What do you give back to them? To others?
Honesty. An honest person is trustworthy; is willing to do what he/she says she/he will. This is a sincere person. We are bombarded with gimmicks and tricks that don’t necessarily improve the final product—us. We have to have the determination to separate what works–what is authentic to our identity–from the glitz. Be honest with others—and yourself.
Humility. Freedom from pride and arrogance. A very good friend of mine held the all-time basketball scoring record at the University of Missouri, Raleigh from until 1986. Consider his humble words: “When you do something well, make it look like you’ve been there before!” It’s what you might refer to as class.
When you run into difficult times, reflect on the virtue that can pull you through. Seek a friend, a parent a mentor, a coach–someone who has the virtue that you need to build; the virtue to make your life joyful—for you and the world around you.
© Steve Piscitelli and Steve Piscitelli’s Blog, 2010.