After recently carrying on about the majority of humanity being possessed by demons (the seven deadly sins), I got to wondering about that minority of folks who aren’t. Probably under the influence of my early Catholic upbringing, I think they’re the virtuous ones.
Since my catechism lessons had always concentrated on the sins and said very little about virtue, I had to Google virtuous qualities and was surprised to find a wide range of lists with varying numbers of items. Pope Gregory counted seven; another scholarly opinion figures eight; the catechism lists four cardinal virtues; Buddhists and Bushido (Samurai) teach seven differing ones; the Stoics (Aristotle, Plato, etc.) consider four; general theology lists only three; and the Sikhs and Confucius offer five in different sets.
There was lots of overlap and redundancy in the several lists. I threw them all into a semantic blender, and the seven categories that settled out were most similar to Gregory’s. While that Pope was a whiz with his calendar revision and new style of chanting, his philosophy was less than rigorous, and his seven virtues really boil down to only five.
In my agnostically authoritative list I’ve added in parentheses all the definitions, synonyms, aspects, and corollaries that I could pull out of my vocabulary. You might easily think of more to add, but I bet you won’t find a new category. If you do, please let me know!
Here then are Balthazar’s Seven Redeeming Virtues:
CHARITY (Generosity, Sacrifice, Altruism, Philanthropy, Helpfulness, Sharing)
COMPASSION (Patience, Kindness, Love, Mercy, Sympathy, Tolerance)
COURAGE (Diligence, Fortitude, Confidence, Valor, Perseverance, Hope, Initiative)
HUMILITY (Honor, Respect, Modesty, Renunciation, Gratitude, Contentment)
HONESTY (Justice, Sincerity, Fidelity, Truth, Faith, Integrity)
MODERATION (Temperance, Chastity, Morality, Self-discipline, Prudence)
PERSPICACITY (Wisdom, Insight, Discernment, Understanding, Perceptive)
Apart from Humility being the best antidote for Pride and Courage curing Sloth, the rest of these virtues are a great medical cocktail for treating the other deadly sins. But how can we convince the demon-possessed majority to acknowledge their addictions and take their medicine? If only there were some way to inoculate folks with Honesty and Compassion, a pill to take for Charity and Moderation, or an operation that would activate the Perspicacity gland!
I’ve seen a poster that exhorts: TEACH TOLERANCE! But I’m not sure one can actually teach virtues. Obviously, the deadly sins can be taught though. They are modelled and encouraged by our economic system, by the entertainment and advertising industries, and in almost all our personal and political relationships. Sadly, virtues don’t sell well nowadays, and folks who practice them are mostly seen as boring do-gooders—or naïve fools.
And about virtue being its own reward: I don’t buy that old saw. I sincerely believe that the reward of virtue is peace and joy. At least that’s why I try to practice it.