“Virtue is not the absence of vices or the avoidance of moral dangers; virtue is a vivid and separate thing, like pain or a particular smell. Mercy does not mean not being cruel or sparing people revenge or punishment; it means a plain and positive thing like the sun, which one has either seen or not seen”. G.K Chesterton

I explained in my last post the meaning of the Theological Virtues. Now I would like to illustrate the significance of the Human Virtues. “Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith.” In simpler words, they help us lead a morally good life, “a virtuous man is he who freely practices the good.”

Every time we laboriously do a morally good act, we perfect these virtues. There are many. However, we can divide them into four groups: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. These four are called “Cardinal Virtues”. Let’s see one by one.

Prudence “is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; ‘the prudent man looks where he is going.'” I like how philosophers and theologians call her the auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues). Imagine all of the virtues on the road in a car. Prudence would be the driver. She knows when to stop, when to drive quickly or slowly… She is constantly reading the signs on the road. “With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid”.

Justice “is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor.” Every action you do must be just, you have to give what is due in each situation and to every person (including yourself). Justice would be the navigator. She would tell where to go, what to do and give. People often cry for justice but they do not know what they are demanding. Sometimes they think justice is to “get one’s own way”. It is not. You do not have to deal or treat equally everything and everybody. Painting with a broad brush is not justice. You have to give what is due to your neighbor, but in order to do that you will have to stop thinking only of yourself and see others clearly. “You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.” This virtue also receives the name of “virtue of religion” when it is applied to God; because man can never righteously give to God what He deserves. What He only demands of us is that we carry on to the best of our abilities.

Fortitude “is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life.” Fortitude would be the mechanic that fixes our car so that we may reach our goals. During our ride we will undoubtably encounter bumps, steep hills, free falls, obstacles that will certainly try to deter us from reaching our destination . This is when fortitude will be extremely helpful because the virtue of fortitude enables us to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. ‘In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.'”

Temperance “is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion.” Temperance would be the engine, electrical system, and everything that a car needs to run smoothly ( as you can see I know nothing about cars). “Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites.”

But remember that, although these are the Cardinal Virtues, they fall short of the Theological Virtues. What I mean to say is that a man who only lives by the cardinal virtues is a good man but not a great and extraordinary man. Why? Because the Theological Virtues, unwarranted gifts from God to us, elevate our human nature, making our actions worthy and agreeable to Him. So now our navigator is not only justice but also charity, we will love everybody as Jesus loves us. Justice will be the smallest measure of love. Our driver is not only prudence but also faith, we will trust in Jesus because He has defeated the world. Our mechanic and car are not only fortitude and temperance but also Hope, Jesus will aid us with His grace and give us His strength. Therefore, by permeating the Cardinal Virtues with the Theological Virtues, they will become Christian virtues.

And just imagine the places we would go!

The sky is not the limit for us!

Human Virtues

Illustrator and writer at Moncharis.