In the 2004 “Character Strengths and Virtues” handbook, six classes of core virtues are identified, made up of 24 measurable “character strengths.” They are as follows:
- Wisdom and Knowledge: creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, love of learning, perspective, innovation
- Courage: bravery, persistence, integrity, vitality, zest
- Humanity: love, kindness, social intelligence
- Justice: citizenship, fairness, leadership
- Temperance: forgiveness and mercy, humility, prudence, self control
- Transcendence: appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor, spirituality
To every positive, there exists a negative; to every good, there exists an evil — every synonym, an antonym. So what are the antonyms and opposites of each of the above?
The opposite of “wisdom and knowledge” is folly and ignorance.
The opposite of “courage” is cowardice.
The opposite of “humanity” is hate.
The opposite of “justice” is partiality.
The opposite of “temperance” is rashness, brashness, arrogance, and unforgivingness.
And the opposite of “transcendence” is unimportance and inferiority.
It’s not rocket science to suggest that most of us wish to be virtuous — to be men and women of strong, solid, and uncompromising character. But why is it that in so many of our dialogues — we are marked more by our opposites above than by our strengths?
… we might claim to love humanity, and yet we show openly show hate toward someone…
… we might claim to be men and women of great temperance, and yet, we withhold forgiveness toward at least a few…
… and we might claim to be wise and knowledgeable for our years, and yet, we are not open-minded in sincerely listening to the person who comes from a varied angle.
It seems, therefore unknowingly, that our society has been lured into believing a complete lack of virtues and strengths is acceptable… especially when talking about any dicey or difficult matter; it’s why an increasing number choose never to discuss money, politics, religion, or sex.
Consistent with the Intramuralist’s advocacy for always embracing what’s good and right and true, we would be wise to remember when we are most tempted to disguise the wrong for a right — to accept the total lack of virtue.
I was reminded again this past weekend of the “H.A.L.T.” theory…
When am I most tempted to act inappropriately? When am I most tempted to withhold love, forgiveness, fairness, and far more? When am I most tempted to lash out, forgetting my deep desire to treat and love all people well?
… when I am…
When I am hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, I am most tempted to forgo what I know to be good and right and true.
In many of the recent Intramuralist discussions, one observation that repeatedly arose was the increased levels of anger in our country — manifesting itself in various ways, but typically, often destructive.
May we attempt to remember what’s virtuous… and pause when the temptation to do otherwise is lurking.