Virtues are your values expressed outward to the world.
What you value is internal and very personal. You can tell others about your values, but they can never truly know how deeply you hold these values. Values manifest in the world through your actions. What you say and do. People can only know what matters to you because you show them. Only through the ferocity you choose to live and defend your values do they become your truth.
Deriving your Truth
You can tell what people value by observing how they live. Be careful of what they say; you must watch what they do. Congruence of word and action shows you the true nature of what matters to them.
In the movie Gladiator, Marcus Aurelius speaks to his son Commodus in Germania just before Marcus’ death. Marcus is a stoic and holds Stoic virtues in high esteem. Commodus does not share these same stoic virtues, but instead, he expresses the virtues he cherishes.
“You wrote to me once, listing the four chief virtues. Wisdom, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance. As I read the list I knew I had none of them. But I have other virtues, father. Ambition, that can be a virtue when it drives us to excel. Resourcefulness. Courage. Perhaps not on the battlefield but there are many forms of courage. Devotion, to my family, to you.”
Commodus values success, which comes across as the virtue of ambition. He also values commitment, which expresses itself as devotion. His resourcefulness is demonstrative of his creative intelligence. He believes in values to his core, and it’s what drives him throughout the movie.
We could tell the type of leader Commodus would end up becoming by how he showed up to the world. What he esteems the most are generally selfish qualities. He never had to explicate because his actions demonstrated what he really valued - himself.
I would like to dig into some well defined virtue sets to help you understand what they are.
The four stoic virtues are Wisdom, Fortitude, Temperance, Justice.
Wisdom: To know one's self and understand what can be changed and what you have to let go. Wisdom is more than "knowing." It should inform your actions. It's about making smart choices.
Fortitude: To face the unimaginable, against all odds, with dignity and self-respect. Embrace the uncomfortable with satisfaction. Most importantly, the strength to stand up for what you believe.
Temperance: To know the difference between what you need and what you want. Too often, in today's instant gratification society, we forget that to be truly happy that we don't need everything that is being advertised to us. To live simply is to live satisfied.
Justice: to fight for what is right in accordance to the laws of nature. The stoics' notion of justice is not governmental justice or social justice - it's greater than these things. Epictetus said, "Seeking the very best in ourselves means actively caring for the welfare of other human beings." Justice is about doing right by your fellow man. Securing goodwill toward other people ensures a civilized and equitable community. Justice in the stoic sense affords human dignity.
In his book, The Way of Men, Jack Donovan lays out four masculine tactical virtues. Men must universally embrace these virtues to persevere while enabling higher culture to flourish. The tactical virtues are Strength, Courage, Mastery, Honor.
Strength: The ability to force your will upon the world. Specifically, physical strength. Every man must be a warrior for his family, tribe, and community.
Courage: The ability to take action in the face of consequences. These consequences may be injury, pain, or death. The greater the risk, the more courage it takes to face it. For men, courage is the ultimate echo of our expendability as males. To lay down his life for what he believes in and to the benefit of his others.
Mastery: The ability to develop and demonstrate skillsets that allow a man to exercise power over all aspects of his surrounding environment. Mastery speaks to the usefulness of a man to his tribe. In short, it's his burden of performance.
Honor: The ability to navigate hierarchical groups of men based on your competencies in the previous three virtues. Honor is your reputation with a group, and it symbolizes your character, abilities, and status.
What are your values? How do they manifest to the world? Are you congruent between your values and virtues?
I encourage everyone to make a list of your values. Then separate them into major and minor groups. I say this because it's easy to list a set of 20 things you call your values, but I can assure you that not all of them are equal. They all may inform our consciousness, but some will be more important than others.
When I wrote down my values, I was surprised to see how unexpected my list was. I have words like trust, loyalty, and truth in my values list, but specific values set us apart from others. Here are a few of the more bold values I have.
◆ Competency ◆ Congruence ◆ Harmony ◆ Knowledge
◆ Mastery ◆ Reason ◆ Respect ◆ Stability
Competency, Mastery, and Knowledge become the virtues of intellectual pursuits. Harmony and Respect center on natural order justice. Stability and Congruence are authentically showing up in the world. Reason promotes understanding and a balanced world view of a complex nature.
From your list of values, you will project your virtues. Understanding what you are projecting allows you to convey the authenticity of who you are and what you stand for. Knowing yourself ensures that the people you interact with will experience the complete you. Not watered down you. Not misunderstood you. Not the suppressed you. Become genuine in your actions and express your inner truth.