The idea of the seven heavenly virtues is derived from a long line of philosophical and religious thinking weighted towards Catholic values.
At the culmination of their development, they were said to be the weapons used to combat the seven deadly sins.
Some were borrowed from Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle, while the rest came from theological sources like the Holy Bible and clergy.
But, this article isn’t about Catholicism.
We are, instead, looking for tools that others have used effectively to transform their lives for the better.
The seven heavenly virtues – prudence, temperance, justice, courage, faith, hope, and charity – can provide a solid foundation on which to start building a better life, even if you’re not religious or spiritual.
How exactly can they help?
Justice – Building Better Relationships
What comes to mind when you hear the word, “justice?”
Is it legal issues and a courtroom?
Perhaps retribution for some slight or wound that’s been inflicted?
The definition of justice includes these things, but in a philosophical sense, the word relates to how we interact with, view, and deal with our fellow human beings.
Acting with a sense of justice is to strive for fairness, balance, and equality in one’s actions. It is to wield the power you have over other people in a way that is fair and respectful to everyone involved.
We find ourselves in a position of power over other people regularly, in our everyday life. The greatest example is when we shop at a store or want to purchase a service. As a consumer, we hold a great deal of power over the employee that is just trying to help us make our purchase.
Yet, so many choose to treat these people poorly.
Justice is important because it demonstrates to the world who you are as a person. If you are known to be a jerk, people are not going to want to help, be around, or work with you. Instead, they will avoid you.
However, people do notice when you try to act fairly and justly, even if they can’t put it into words. If they know that you aren’t going to try to screw them, they are much more forgiving and understanding.
Prudence – Avoiding Senseless Waste
We are a wasteful society. To embrace prudence is to understand that we have a finite amount of resources and we should make the most efficient use of what we have.
We should appreciate what we have, even if it’s not that much, even if we’re striving for more. You simply never know when you may find yourself down and out with nothing left to show for all of the effort you put in.
We can practice prudence by budgeting, so we can be mindful of how we spend our money, taking care of our belongings so they last longer, and not treating things as disposable that are not.
In turn, we will want less, which brings less stress and anxiety to try to keep pace with unrealistic expectations.
Temperance – To Be An Island Of Calm In The Storm
Anger is a fair and valid emotion. Far too many self-help gurus and books push the idea that any kind of anger is negative. It’s not. Anger is just an emotion. It can be used as fuel to enact changes or push toward better things.
But, it is really easy to slip into a self-righteous justification and place too much importance on our anger, feeding it and letting it grow. That’s bad because we can lose sight of the bigger picture and act rashly.
To act with temperance is to approach problems with reason, even if they have a lot of intensity associated with them.
Temperance allows us to more clearly identify a problem and work toward a beneficial solution, rather than give in to ham-fisted demands to placate our angry ego.
Not every emotion we feel is correct, even if it is justified. Sometimes we don’t have all the information, or lack an important perspective. It doesn’t mean you’re wrong, but it doesn’t mean you’re right either.
Temperance, calmness, acting out of reason and rationality is the most effective way to avoid needless conflict.
Courage is the most important factor in any meaningful life changes. Why? Because change is scary.
Is it applying to a new job? Asking that attractive person out? Deciding to go back to school?
Or is it deeper than that? Is it trying to look at yourself through unbiased eyes, the way you think and look at the world, looking for the difficulties and challenges that may still be negatively affecting you today?
One must muster courage to transform a life. In trying to do so, we stare into the face of the unknown, no idea what will come from our effort or if we will even succeed.
But we must try. Otherwise, we are doomed to live a life of stagnation in whatever rut we may find ourselves in.
Faith – To Know We Can Handle The Unknown
Faith is another word that passionately means different things to different people.
It can be a religious statement, it can be hope that things will get better, but it can also be about ourselves.
We must have faith in ourselves that we can navigate the coming unknown if we want to transform our lives.
But… you don’t need to know everything! You can’t possibly know everything.
Handling a situation or an unforeseen challenge can also mean embracing humility and asking more knowledgeable people for help. We can learn so much from studying the paths of the people that came before us.
Somewhere out there, someone has already succeeded in doing what you are trying to do. You don’t have to walk their path exactly or believe everything that they believe. You can borrow from it, learn, and use it to forge your own path.
Hope – A Flickering Light In A Dark Night
Hope is a powerful catalyst for change. It can move people to great heights, inspire, and encourage.
Hope is something we must keep within sight as we work to improve our lives or enhance what we believe in.
It’s knowing that yes, we have the power and ability to change ourselves or the life that we are currently living; to know that we are not doomed.
It can be hard to find hope in the murky blackness of depression or mental illness. The important thing to keep in mind is that hope is often a beacon or a symbol. It can lead you in a particular direction, but you will still have to walk the path and fight the battles that face you.
We need concrete goals to hang onto, pursue, and check off as we push forward. The flame of hope will die without the fuel of actions to keep it alive and well.
Charity – To Uplift Those Below Us
People, by and large, are generally good, although, yes, there are negative and bad people in the world.
We can see goodness at work in the charity that people give to those who are less fortunate or have more difficult lives than they do.
It doesn’t have to be grand or flashy gestures. Sometimes it’s something small or simple that we may not necessarily need, that someone else can benefit from.
Practicing charity not only makes another person’s load lighter, but it also breeds humility if we can reflect on what we have and the challenges that other people face.
There are many people out there who feel that they have been burned by practicing an act of charity or compassion for another person who did not appreciate it, or maybe took advantage of their kindness.
We must avoid internalizing the behaviors of others. What they choose to do with that charity is often a reflection of the life they’ve led or problems that you may not be aware of.
Even if someone takes advantage of a kindness, being the one to choose to put kindness and charity into the world is far more powerful and healthier for you if you let it be stronger than your anger.