The ABCs of Virtues

Virtues Alphabet Refrigerator Magnet

If we want people to understand the relationship between virtues and emotions, we will probably need to start young. Toward that aim, I’m working on a new project – a Virtues Alphabet Refrigerator Magnet set. I’ve decided that along with the 60 magnets – each of which contains a letter and a virtue that starts with that letter – I should offer my own parent-friendly definition of each virtue. I welcome your comments.

You already know what these virtues mean, but here are some helpful hints as to how to apply them to your children:

Call them active when they initiate activities other than watching TV or playing video games.

Call them adorable when they do something that melts your heart.

Call them attentive when they listen to what you are saying, even if there are lots of distractions.

Call them brave when they try something new or challenging.

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Ethnocentric Intolerance

Peter C. Newton-Evans

I recently overheard a cafeteria discussion in which a student was describing ethnic intolerance as being entirely without logical or rational bases. Although I was glad to know this person felt strongly about it, I could not help thinking that something was wrong with the statement.

Take the case of Chris, a white, middle-class child of average natural endowment, reared in the bosom of a "morally strict" American family. Whenever Chris puts an elbow on the dinner table or fails to appropriately use the napkin, disapproving looks, gestures and words are given in response.

Thus Chris learns at an early age that certain actions are “good” and certain others “bad”. Because the disapproval is aimed at Chris, the child also learns that people are either good or bad according to their actions.

{josquote}We can now ask ourselves whether the logical conclusions resulting from those unchallenged “truths” contribute to or detract from our becoming more like our Ideal Self, and we can begin a process of inner change.{/josquote}

Sometimes Chris uses a wrong word or admits to not knowing something, and in reply receives sneers and scorn from peers. Soon another lesson is learned: people are either dumb or smart according to whether or not they know certain facts and use appropriately certain words.

Everyone seems to be in agreement as to what constitutes good, bad, dumb or smart people, so Chris naturally accepts these assumptions as true without questioning them. Chris has now been properly programmed to be ethnocentric.

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Finding an Alternative to "Better, Special and Right"

{josquote}...all of those adjectives create barriers between me and others.{/josquote}

I spent much of my life trying to be better, special, and right. The only alternative I could imagine was to be worse, ordinary and wrong and no one wants to be that. Now I’m trying to teach myself (and my kids) that it is possible to be unique, valuable and connected instead. It is difficult to overcome years of conditioning. I still want to be best. I still want to be right. I still long to be special. But all of those adjectives create barriers between me and others. They keep me in a state of comparison instead of a state of compassion.

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Lessons of True Wealth from The Great Gatsby

Beacon Towers served as an inspiration for Gatsby's home

I went to see the latest film version of The Great Gatsby. Director Baz Luhrmann has created a visual feast from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel about wealth and desire. Clearly, he had fun attempting to represent the flamboyant lifestyle of the rich in 1920’s New York. The film features houses the size of castles filled with lights and partying people; a small sitting room overwhelmed with hundreds of white orchids; paths in formal gardens stretching between patios and harbor waters. Gatsby’s mega-riches gave him enormous power. He had the town in his pocket — politicians, police chiefs, stock brokers, even the mob. He believed he could say “Be” and it would be.

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Kill Them with Kindness, or Turn the Other Cheek?

{amazon id='B00D18D9MO'}

Last week I had a spat with one of my customers that ended with them demanding more of a refund than I thought was justified or fair.

I stewed over this conflict for hours over the course of several days. When the returned goods arrived with yet another snotty note and demand for payment, I had to make a decision as to what to do.

Should I give in to an unjust demand, or stand up for myself and only refund what I thought was fair? I was becoming more angry and agitated the more I wrestled with my decision.

I knew that this was not healthy. I tried walking thorough the steps of forgiveness that I understood so well intellectually, but my heart wasn’t in it.

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