When I am counselling in relationships I often ask if the couple knows what the verb to ‘Edify’ means. Most times I get a blank look. I have now printed out a sheet with seven words that mean the same from the Thesaurus. It means to teach, to instruct, to enlighten, to educate, to improve and to guide spiritually. Now just when one party thinks that this list would suit them because in their opinion the other party needs all this, I say, but it only works if invited. Outside of the invitation it could be abuse. I got to thinking, how many other words have been lost or have had their meanings changed. Virtue is one. What is a virtue? I reckon that if I stood in the street of any one of our valley towns and asked, I would get blank looks at least from those under fifty. A quick Internet search gave me 127 virtues. Wikipedia (reputable I must say- lol, but surely they can’t get this one wrong) describes a virtue as follows:
• Virtue (Latin virtus; Greek ἀρετή "arete") is moral excellence. A virtue is a trait or quality deemed to be morally excellent and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being.
• Personal virtues are characteristics valued as promoting individual and collective well being. The opposite of virtue is vice.
I would like to address a few here that in themselves seem to have slipped away both as virtues and as words from our venacular.
Altruism: There seems to be a lack of being able to give something without strings attached and without the expectations of a ‘kick back’. Businesses, because they exist to make a profit are not good at this – eg. buy some petrol first and then we will give you ---However, rarely, people give away things like vegies home grown without a thought of something in return. Also however, many people give to a charity and want their name read out and their giving acknowledged. My guide book of Wisdom says, ‘It is better to give than receive’.
Candor: We joke about the wife asking the husband if her backside looks ok in a particular dress. What can he say? It appears that if he says yes he will get a clout and if he says no he is accused of lying. However jokes aside we would do well to tell the truth in love (using Wisdom- another Virtue) as too many people go too far and crash because the truth was not told to them with Candor.
Chastity: We often think this word belongs to the Victorian era or we hear about it in terms of a chastity belt in a bondage scene. It seems far removed from the reality of the promiscuity (another disappearing word) of today’s movie ratings and lack of sobriety (another one) and prudence (another). To be chaste and prudent is to excerise Wisdom in living. See above for where this one goes as an opposite of Virtue – vice.
Without enumerating more in detail let me list some sliding virtues that need to be rescued from the brink of the cliff. Remember, above, they are the baseline and foundation for a moral being and a moral society. Of course even morals are challenged as it is asked , where do we get our morals from? Simple answer, The Bible/ the Judaistic/ Christian foundations. Funny that, just as we were about to throw that out and scoff at the uselessness and irrelevance, we might need to note that our Parliament built on the Westminster system, is built on a Biblical base. Whoops, and our legal system too. Maybe we could think of piety, forgiveness, meekness, restraint, self-respect and philomathy??? – check the dictionary for the real meanings before you throw them out on what we believe the meaning to be. Sorry about the English lesson, but our society would be a different color if virtues were re-stablished in our venacular and our lives.
Graeme Dawson B.Min. Grad.Dip.CC.
Co-ordinator Focal Point & Valley Care Clinical Counsellor