Virtue and Character
reprinted with permission: first published in Metamorphosis: Tools for Transformation a weekly newsletter by Peter Shepard www.trans4mind.com
Imagine driving a car. If the steering was misaligned and continued to pull you to the left or the right, or otherwise did not respond properly, then it would become a priority to get it fixed.
Your character is far more valuable and useful to you than a car or other material object. It is natural and logical to direct some of your time, energy and attention towards the contemplation of your character.
It is a principle of life that the more we study a subject the greater our knowledge and control of it grows. Let us then study character, which is at the root of all the world's problems and their solutions.
All your thoughts, speech and actions (which greatly effect your circumstances) arise from the quality of your personality. Almost all personalities contain flaws and are "lopsided" to some degree. By lopsided I mean that some qualities are over extended whilst others are stunted, resulting in vices such as greed, cowardice and dishonesty, etc.
Understanding and reclaiming natural virtue is at the heart of genuine self improvement. From now on, every time that you read an article about self improvement and personal success, see it in the light of the virtues. You will find that many, in effect, are describing various virtues such as bravery, persistance, spontaneity and patience, etc. When you appreciate this, you will gain a valuable overview of the whole subject of self improvement. A deep curiosity and love for the virtues will awaken. As your love and acceptence increases for the forgotten and repressed aspects of your character, they will re-integrate with you and again become available for your use.
In terms of time and energy, it is much more "cost effective" (and more enjoyable) to increase your virtue than to try and force a behavior change in yourself. The increased virtue will naturally and beneficially influence a wide range of your behaviors. Some negative habits will disappear by themselves without the need for conscious effort.
Dedicate a notebook to your study of the virtues. Write a list of as many virtues and vices as you can and explore how they are related to each other. You may be surprised to discover a universal pattern in them. Keep a record of the questions you have about the virtues and the insights that you gain from exploring those questions.
What assumptions have you been holding about character and the virtues? Maybe some of your assumptions have been holding you back. Do not accept negative, self limiting beliefs from others who may have made absolutely no study of the subject. Instead find out for yourself with gentle persistance and a genuine, open minded curiosity. Some claim that there is a limit to character improvement and so then make no effort to improve. If you believe that there is a limit, then first reach it and then look again. You may find that the limits, which seemed so solid from a distance, melt away as you approach them.
By focusing your attention on positive qualities you will be raising up your outlook on life and you will find that your character also raises up to greater levels of harmony. Examine your personality as if for the first time; try and look into deeper layers of yourself. The light of your attention will illuminate and bring to the surface many hidden treasures from within your nature. Author James Barton invites your valued comments, questions and criticism. Please visit VirtueScience.com : Character Improvement via the Virtues for more information. You may also be interested in his free ebook: " Inner Medicine " which contains new discoveries about the virtues along with practical techniques to improve character.
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