In the eighth grade, my English teacher, Mr. Little, taught me everything I would ever need for grammar and writing, but it was on the first day of class that he did something that I’ve never forgotten – He said he would only require one simple thing in his class and then he wrote on the chalk board two words, “DO RIGHT”. That was all he asked of his eighth graders. Those two words – DO RIGHT – sum up the character trait of virtue.
Virtue is defined as “the moral excellence evident in my life as I consistently do what is right.” Virtue is living out good character consistently. It is DOING RIGHT CONSISTENTLY, being known as a person who always does the right thing.
In our world today, we underestimate the commitment level and the time it takes to accomplish things truly worthwhile. We like things new – we like things quick. We tend to cut corners and look for faster answers and less costly solutions.
With virtue we can’t cut corners – Virtue requires consistency – Virtue requires practice.
You’ve heard the term “virtuoso”. A virtuoso is one who is highly skilled in an area of the fine arts. A violin virtuoso has reached such a musical skill level that the music has become a part of the individual. You’ve heard the saying, “practice makes perfect.” Virtuosity requires repetition, repetition, and more repetition! While practice may not seem inspiring, virtue, like a skill, is developed only by constant exercise. You develop virtue by constant application. Most people overestimate the difficulty of something, but underestimate the consistency required to see results. Each new challenge we face on a daily basis is an opportunity for a virtuous response, a chance to do the right thing.
Think about what being known as a person of virtue does for you personally – being known as a person who always does the right thing brings respect, trust, credibility, confidence, and lasting relationships and friendships. But more importantly, think about what it does for others. Your character and the character of your coworkers determine the culture of your workplace and your community. Someone once said: “Your greatest contributions to the world will probably not center on the work you accomplished, but on the excellence you inspired in others, one by one, day by day.”
The consistency, the reward, and the impact of a daily walk of virtue are illustrated wonderfully in the following story:
While walking along a beach, an elderly gentleman saw someone in the distance leaning down, picking something up and throwing it into the ocean.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young boy, picking up starfish one by one and tossing each one gently back into the water.
He came closer still and called out, “Good morning young man! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The boy paused, looked up, and replied “I’m throwing starfish into the ocean. The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”
Upon hearing this, the elderly observer commented, “But son, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”
After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, tossed it gently back into the ocean and said, “It made a difference for that one.”