Y’all know I grew up in a fundamentalist household. I learned a lot about sin and heard a lot of thou shalt nots, but there wasn’t much talk of virtues. It was all about obstaining, and rules; but the idea of cultivating good virtues, like the cardinal virtues in Catholicism, didn’t get emphasized.
When I started exploring paganism I was more interested in goddesses and magic than I was in moral codes. I had “If it harms none, do what you will” from the Wiccan Rede as a rough guideline, and it was a huge relief to let go of all the dogma. But when I got into hard situations–which was always, because I was a walking crisis in those days–“harm none” didn’t give me much to go on.
So there I was, careening from disaster to disaster, blaming my problems on everyone else and feeling really lost. I basically handled my problems by blaming them on everyone else–which isn’t really handling them at all. But at a certain point, when the same cycles kept repeating, I had to stop and ask myself if maybe I was doing something to perpetuate the cycle.
When I finally sat down and looked at myself I realized my attitude kind of sucked, and that I should probably do something about it. Still focused on outcomes rather than on my character, I stumbled on books and documentaries about the Law of Attraction and spent a lot of time reading and watching.
I didn’t attract a mansion or a bajillion dollars, but I DID come away from all that reading with one important understanding: you get out what you put in. Which I think is pretty similar to “do unto others” and “what you send out comes back to you.” I also think it’s a very good starting place for a discussion of how one might best conduct one’s affairs. It certainly helped me have a less sucky attitude.
But it still wasn’t quite enough for me. I didn’t want a list of dos and don’ts–life is too complicated for hard lines of black and white. But I wanted . . . something. And I wasn’t sure what.
Then I started flirting with Druidry, joined ADF for a year, and got their dedicant manual. In the end I decided Druidry isn’t really exactly what I’m after, but there are many things I appreciate about it–one of which is the ADF’s list of 9 Pagan Virtues.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past several months thinking about the idea of virtues (and here I’m using the definition of virtue as moral qualities–that is, specific characteristics like kindness and courage.)
What I love about the idea of cultivating virtues is that it gives me a moral code without giving me a list of rules that don’t always fit the circumstances I find myself in. I figure instead of memorizing the rules, I can strive to become a certain kind of person with certain qualities. If I work to be a compassionate, honest, brave person, maybe I’ll make good decisions because it will be in my nature to do so. I’d make choices according to my values, rather than according to the likelihood of punishment. Ideally I’d reach a point where making honorable decisions is the natural outcome of being true to myself–that’s a fine goal to reach for.