This blog grows out of my conviction that every aspect of our lives is sacred and is to be nurtured and celebrated as a good gift of God. Most of the posts will be the sorts of things you would expect from a historian and worldview teacher, but some are likely to be a bit surprising. Since God created all things good, including all aspects of human life, everything is interesting and important from the perspective of a biblical worldview. Everything under the Sun and under Heaven is thus fair game here. I hope you find it interesting and enjoyable.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Universal Virtues

People today frequently argue that ethics, morality, and ideas of virtue and character are entirely determined by culture, that they have no objective reality. There is increasing evidence, however, that at least some ideas about character are hardwired into us. One of the more interesting studies comes from a group of psychologists who examined cultures from more than 30 countries and all the major world religions. They found 24 character traits that have been universally recognized as virtues by moral philosophers and religious leaders throughout history. After compiling the list, they examined isolated tribes including the Masai in African and the Inuit in Greenland and found the same ideas. The list includes:

  • Creativity
  • Curiosity
  • Open-mindedness
  • Love of learning
  • Perspective
  • Bravery
  • Persistence
  • Integrity
  • Vitality
  • Love
  • Kindness
  • Social intelligence
  • Citizenship
  • Fairness
  • Leadership
  • Forgiveness and mercy
  • Humility/modesty
  • Prudence
  • Self-regulation
  • Appreciation of beauty and excellence
  • Gratitude
  • Hope
  • Humor
  • Spirituality
 This study led to a movement called “positive psychology” that believes that practicing these traits will improve psychological and even physical health. The movement’s handbook is Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification (American Psychological Association, 2004).

As part of your program of personal growth, why not look over this list and rate yourself on each of the character traits. Which are your greatest strengths? Which are greatest weaknesses? Find someone who knows you well and ask her or him to rate you too, encouraging them to be brutally honest. Looking over the answers from both lists, how do they compare? What can you do to build on your strengths and shore up your weaknesses? Consider putting the answers on the list of goals that you are working on this year.

(Thanks to Michael Lee Stallard, Fired Up or Burned Out, from which I learned about positive psychology.)