The Nine Virtues
Author: Kalynn Osburn
In some way or another throughout the ages, there have been sets of attributes that have been deemed by both society and individuals to define the quality of a person’s character. From the Ten Commandments to Sanatana Dharma, from the Noble Eightfold Path to the Wiccan Rede, each comprises cultural appreciation of upright action and thought. Many of these hold the same tenants as one another, with values such as honesty, kindness, generosity and honor at the top of the lists. It is in this line that I have comprised what I feel to be the Nine Virtues, a series of considerations to which I think one should aspire in their life time.
In no way do I mean to say that this is the definitive list of ethical behavior! Nor do I want anyone to believe that I have an infallible moral compass! Far from it, in fact. These are simply the traits which I think are lacking in this era and should be given due consideration. While they include several from what is considered both warrior and maidenly virtues, I have done all I can to remove the gender considerations herein and I advise seeing them more as human virtues rather than belonging to one gender or the other.
The goal here is to strive towards these traits and to do your best to keep them in mind as you act throughout the day. I have listed them in order or personal importance (1 being the most significant to me) but these are not really quantifiable as more or less significant.
Honor is among the most difficult to define of the virtues, and yet to me it is one of the most important. Many define this concept as a definition of a man’s duty or loyalty to one’s betters or higher ups within a military code of conduct. For women the term was historically used in reference to their virginity or the price a mate would have to pay in order to wed them. Honor can mean loyalty to duty, but it can also mean to act in a way that conveys dignity and rightness. Refusing to be goaded into a fight or not allowing your character to be falsified. Taking the protecting and care of your family upon yourself and working for their good at all times. Not allowing your friends to hurt when you have the means to prevent it. It comes down to looking at the situation and doing everything in your power to work through it with rightness of thought and deed. Honor also ties in strongly with other constructs such as: Integrity of the self, Accountability for your actions, and Respect for yourself and others
Courage is often misinterpreted as a lack of cowardice or fear. In reality, Courage is being afraid, terrified even, but pushing forward anyway. There are two types of courage: physical courage, which could be defending someone from attack or pushing yourself to the limit, and moral courage, which would be keeping to your moral or ethical code despite potential ridicule and ostracized. It can be difficult to remain courageous without becoming reckless or displaying an excess of bravado. In my experience the truly courageous are quiet, steadfast people who one would never suspect of being capable of such bravery. The one who rushes into a burning building to save a child and then disappears before the news crew can get a shot of them. The truest form of courage is in those whose names will never be known, but who take it upon themselves to act in defense of others.
Mercy is often portrayed as the powerful showing pity to the weak. This is often emphasized by the Christian concept of a merciful God, one who wields incomparable power and yet exercises with caution or consideration for those under their influence. But to put this on a more relatable level, one could compare mercy with humanitarian efforts such as giving your time so that other’s might live life with greater ease, even if only for a moment. Through acts of kindness and charity, such as donating your clothing to homeless shelters, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or being a counselor for a youth group, one hopes to achieve a human connection as well as a greater understanding of compassion. To quote the Bard: “The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”
Honesty is not always as simply as just telling the truth. In this case, the virtue has more to do with being of straightforward character. It can be difficult to weight honesty with brutal, unfeeling truth, but it is important to remember that honesty does not give one the right to be callous. You should always consider how your answer would affect the other person’s state of mind. At times a gentler hand may be called for, but sometimes we must be direct in our approach. A good thing to keep in mind is to never do anything you know you are going to have to lie about later. With this thought, Honesty is more about acting truthfully and without deceit intended than it really is about telling your friend you like her dress when it looks awful.
One could find it very amusing that I chose to put the virtue of Cunning right after that of Honesty, seeing as how the two so often seem to be at odds. But in this case it is to establish a balance between the two that I include cunning among the virtues. Cunning is not about lying, but about displaying keen insight or a knowledge of something that might baffle others. You could also term this as being clever or witty about a particular subject (such as witchcraft) . It is, above all else, using your intellect to solve problems and find new solutions to old issues. Brehons might be the best example of such folk, as they had to navigate their way around the law without denying the rights of everyone involved.
Endurance is the unique ability to keep going long after others have quit. There are two kinds of endurance: physical endurance, such as a woman in labor or a man running a triathlon, and mental endurance, such as that shown during studying final exam or sensory deprivation. One could also consider life to be an endurance trial, as we face hardships and difficulties one has to show the endurance and fortitude to overcome them. Life is hard, but not without it’s joy, and sometimes weathering the hard times creates more joy in the easy times. Being tenacious and sticking to your set goals without fail shows great endurance.
Spirit is the belief and understanding of an innermost self, a soul or essence, which comprises you as an incorporeal being. It is a connectedness to a larger self and an understanding that there is a pattern and weaving to existence that you are a part of. This could also be termed Piety, though I would not include religious devotion as the explanation. Rather you strive to see the big picture of life, not only in terms of you and yours but also in terms of the universe as a whole. Someone who has the virtue of Spirit is confident, but without the danger of hubris and arrogance that so often comes with the idea of a higher spiritual understanding. As Albert Einstein said “Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.”
Introspection is being aware of your own needs, desires, flaws, virtues and state of mind. It is a conscious effort on the part of a person to fully consider their actions and thoughts and to consider the ramifications both to themselves and to others. It is the consideration of one’s own mind, or meta-cognition (thinking about thinking) . One could consider this like having a psychologist inside your own mind. You try to break down your own though process, questions yourself and answer honestly. It is not the same as doubting yourself or seeing your own advise as invalid, it is simply exploring your own motives and knowing where they come from.
Tranquility is maintaining a state of calmness and levelheaded thinking. It is in allowing yourself to move beyond the hectic frustrations and troubles of the moment and not letting them interfere with your thought process or course of action. One could also add into this the feeling of contentment with your life as it is right now, without giving thought to the future or past. You become at ease with the reality of the world and life in general and accept your current state of being. Inherent in this is the ability to move past what may be happening at the moment and focus on what must come next.