In the modern and contemporary world, where people are striving to build and accumulate wealth and have forgotten all about building virtue, what should be the ultimate resolve for all human beings?
Wealth without virtue causes more destruction to humanity than anything else.
People who pursue wealth and do not value virtue are bound for failure, corruption, aggression, hatred, jealousy, selfishness, and sentimental destruction.
On the other hand, exercising virtue will always harness peace and tranquility, and anything that follows, which includes the accumulation of wealth, is noble and meaningful.
Humans should put more emphasis on virtue, instead of solely focusing on building wealth and that is the discussion agenda today.
Let’s first see Aristotle’s view on virtue. The theory of virtue, popularized by him, gave meaningful light to the concept.
Aristotle believed that, in the sphere of action, moral virtues sit between two opposing vices.
What this simply means is that we have two sides of one characteristic.
One is in excess.
The other is in a deficit or lacking it.
Say, for example, fearlessness or bravery.
Having too much or excess of it would indicate foolishness while having less or lacking it would indicate cowardice and fear.
This is summed up by Aristotle’s famous Golden Rule, by which we can categorize and understand virtue.
Here’s a table (with examples) for you to understand what Aristotle meant by two sides of a trait
|Vice (Excess or Surplus)
|Vice (Deficient or Lacking)
The table above explains different virtues (traits), along with the associated excess or deficient vice characteristics. This means that if you possess a certain virtuous trait like generosity, you can expect to be wasteful, if that virtue or characteristic is in excess, or greedy if you are deficient in it.
Moving further in our discussion, virtue is not something you can intentionally look up and try to build upon. Instead, it is instigated from deep down of your heart. And for you to truly try and build virtue, you need to have an understanding of it.
What is Virtue?
Virtue refers to exhibiting high moral standards, as behaviors.
In simple terms, it refers to goodness, righteousness, morality, ethics, and vice versa.
When you set out to do good for someone, looking beyond yourself, you are believed to be virtuous, as your vision is not tunneled to self, it is broad, and most importantly, for the greater good.
Let’s watch this small story which shows how virtue is more important than selfish goals and personal success.
Virtue is about following moral standards and achieving unselfishness, and with any step that you’re taking on that path, you are embarking on the journey of building virtue.
You will make a conscious effort to support what is right and negate what is wrong.
Confucius’ view on virtue left a criterion for human beings to follow, which he referred to as ‘Cardinal Virtues.’
According to Confucius, there are 8 different cardinal virtues or moral standards to follow, and failure to do so will disregard one as a human being.
|What it Represents
|Being highly devoted to all aspects of your life
|Respect for everyone especially parents and ancestors
|Kind towards everyone showing humility and being
|Selflessness and unwavering concern for kindness for others
|Being honest in all aspects of communication
|Strong sense of justice characterized by being unbiased and impartial
|Characterized by peace and tranquility striving to remove enmity
|Being just and not taking advantage of anyone
Why Building Virtue is Better than Building Wealth
When we talk about wealth, we’re talking about something external. Everyone knows wealth is something external, meaning that it is derived or obtained from external sources. Despite that, people pursue wealth. And why wouldn’t they? Wealth is essential means to an end.
However, that end usually resonates with our worldly desires that are meaningless, when it comes to building virtue. You might fancy an extravagant lifestyle with money, but it will never serve you happiness in the long run.
Perhaps, it’s better to take wealth as one of the virtues bestowed upon us, through our hard work and dedication. And virtue without wealth is like living in an empty shell of pride, greed, and selfishness.
Having said that, we need to establish the context between virtue and wealth and why it’s better to build virtue than build your wealth.
To help you understand better, we have put together some comparisons between gaining virtue and wealth:
What You Gain with Virtue vs What You Gain with Wealth
|Purpose-led life with meaning and simplicity
|Pride and greed
|Striving for the greater good by helping others
|Selfishness and running for worldly desires
|Emphasizing wealth to serve the society
|Emphasizing wealth to boast and devouring oneself in luxuries
|Living by high moral and ethical standards
|Living a life of ease and extravagance taking everything for granted
|Compassion and empathy
|Judging others and becoming feeling less
|Gaining God’s Blessings
|Picking up good habits like righteousness
|Picking up bad habits like wickedness
You must be thinking by now that you should solely focus on building virtue and forget all about building wealth, right?
Well, that’s not the intent here.
The intent is to make you understand that all external gains like the accumulation of wealth are of no purpose if one doesn’t possess or follow the virtues of life.
You don’t have to be a saint to be virtuous. You can start by taking small, yet meaningful steps.
Here are a few steps that you can abide by, which will help:
The easiest step you could take, in your journey to build virtue is to encourage and practice self-reflection.
What you can do is set a time for yourself for around 10 minutes. You may even stand in front of the mirror to gauge your state of mind and body language.
In those 10 minutes, you need to ask yourself, whether you did something that caused benefit to anyone, other than yourself.
Also, take notes of whether you (intentionally or unintentionally) hurt anyone’s feelings and you might need to apologize to that person.
These 10 minutes will help you dive deeper into your personality, and as you continue practicing the exercise of self-reflection, you will start noticing changes in your personality, by developing good habits.
You may even ask yourself about the spending you’ve made today, and whether those spendings were meaningful or useful in your life. This will also help you generate a better sense of spending wealth, and you’ll start viewing wealth as a virtue.
2. Reading Books on Virtue
Another way that will help you jump-start your journey is by reading books that are meaningful and offer holistic perspectives, focusing on the greater good.
There are many books that you may resound to. Remember, it’s not about getting the lengthiest book, it’s about getting the right one. You wouldn’t want to overwhelm yourself by stopping everything together.
It is recommended that start reading material or books related to virtue that contains motivational moral stories. One book that you can read is ‘The Book of Virtues’ by William J. Bennett. It contains a treasury of moral stories and will help you develop a great contextual understanding of building virtue.The Book of Virtues by William J. Bennett
There are many other interesting reads out there that will help you build virtue.
If you’re not invested in reading books, you can start exploring articles online, that are interesting and thought-provoking. Here’s one that talks about how having great virtue brings you a bright future, giving you a touch of ancient history as well.
Last but not least, follow The Mystical Universe’s blogs – we regularly publish articles that will instill the right thoughts in your mind necessary to build virtue.
Journey – Committing to and Taking One Step at A Time
One of the ways you can emphasize building virtue in your life is through commitment.
And this commitment involves taking one step at a time.
What you can do is commit yourself to one bad habit that you want to quit.
For example, lying. If you’re prone to lie, start by committing yourself to become truthful, even if you decide to do it for a week or a day.
Once you practice this commitment, you will start realizing how calm and peaceful your state of mind is becoming.
Remember, you need to take one step at a time.
If it’s being extravagant that you want to overcome, then you should value the worth of money by spending a day with someone who’s below you (in terms of financial stature). You may even go to different orphanages to see how they live their lives, which will help you understand the value of life, regarding what’s necessary and what’s not. Hence, you’ll stop the excess spending or living an extravagant life.
Just commit yourself to overcoming one bad habit, in the period of one month, one week, one day, one hour, or whatever time you find suitable.
Once you believe that have overcome that specific bad habit, you can commit yourself to overcoming the next bad habit that you can think of.
Virtue is all about making a conscious effort toward moral improvement.
Final Thoughts: Should We Forget About Building Wealth?
If virtue is so significant to us, why do we bother to build and accumulate wealth?
Should we give up on building wealth altogether?
The unique aspect of virtue is that it will help you understand the true meaning of wealth.
Virtue drives wealth in the long run and you’ll know this only when you embark on the journey of building virtue.
Virtue will help you realize the value of wealth in its true sense and that is the whole idea behind why building virtue is better than building wealth.