Virtue vs. impurity

The moral excellence evident in my life as I consistently do what is right.

The nineteenth-century writer J. G. Holland once said, "Reputation and character are widely different things. Character lives in a man, reputation outside of him." Reputation is the impression that others hold in their minds based on your external record. Character is the inner reality of who you truly are. Virtue links character and reputation. Virtue is the moral excellence a person exhibits by consistently making right choices. The influence of your good character is an important contribution you can make to others at home, on the job, or in your community. Virtue is the measure of that influence. Virtue is "the moral excellence evident in my life as I consistently do what is right."

Human beings are social entities. We constantly influence and are influenced by one another. Virtue has to do with the moral influence that your life exerts upon others. The character of one person can influence the character of those nearby and an individual's words, actions, and attitudes can exert a real influence on others.

Virtues and vices are communicated from one person to another by conscious example and also by unconscious influence. We tend to become like the people with whom we spend our time. That is the nature of human relationships. One who understood - and misused - the power of positive influence was seventeenth-century Russia's Sophia Romanov when she attempted to seize the throne from her brother Peter. It is said that Sophia tried to destroy his ability to lead by introducing corrupting companions at court - companions to draw young Peter into drunkenness, extravagance and waste. However, Peter stood firm in the moral instruction of his early childhood and, according to legend, even reformed some of those companions.

Virtue is the quality of one who stands upright in the face of immoral influences. The man or woman of virtue seeks to do the right thing and urge others to as well.

One simple way to begin having a positive, consistent influence on those around you is to choose to wear a smile. Talk with your family about the value of a smile and what it communicates to others. As a family, determine to smile at those around you - whether you feel like it or not. After a week or so, discuss what kind of influence your smiles had on others - and even on your own attitudes.

Brought to you by the Four Corners Character Council. Character First! Definitions and information used by permission. Copyright Character Training Institute