What’s the difference between virtues and values, what do we prioritize as important, and what does that say about us.
What do you value in life?
This is often one of the very first questions I ask men when I begin working with them. Usually the way in which they respond tends to sum up the code in which they live by.
Many times when we talk about things we value, what we really mean is something we virtue. And there is a huge difference between them.
What is a virtue?
In short a virtue is something that we admire when we see it and take on for ourselves. Sometimes we do it to specifically win the approval of others or to know ourselves in a certain way. If I say that I have self-expression as a value of mine, it could be because I really want to know myself as being self-expressed or believe that it is an important quality to have.
(If you want more information about virtues here’s what Wikipedia says about them.)
What is a value?
A value is something that goes beyond a virtue, something that has inherent meaning to you regardless of what other people think.
It is something that acts as a core commitment and one that is basically unfuckable with.
For example if I say that I value integrity and I act consistent with that, then you can count on me to act with integrity even in the moments when no one is looking and I stand to gain nothing by doing so.
I’m acting with integrity because it’s something I value, not because it’s going to get me something. (If you want to hear my thoughts on what integrity is, check out this post here)
So why is all this important?
Knowing the difference is very important. This is a critical distinction to make for a number of reasons as too many men I have spoken to or worked with fool themselves into thinking that they value something when really it lives as a virtue for them.
Naming this distinction also allows you to recognize where you are holding something as a virtue instead of a value, as it gives you an opportunity to actually see it for what it is and to make that virtue a value if need be.
There is nothing wrong with having virtues, we need them and they have an important place. Many, if not all, of us to some degree think our virtues are synonymous with our values and as such we think we are more consistent with our values than we actually are. That is why being able to know and understand the difference between the two provides us men with a lot more clarity and power around who we are.
- If I think that I value something when it’s really just a virtue, then I won’t have my attention and intention on it and thus fail to notice when I act inconsistent with that value.
As a result I’ll have a bunch of justifications and excuses as to why I couldn’t operate consistent with that value and it will exist as an external issue rather than an internal one.
How this translates into real life is when I blame everything and everyone else around me rather than examining my relationship to what I value vs what is a virtue for me.
- If one values monogamy but it lives as a virtue they may have a number of reasons and excuses as to why they were justified in their reasons for going outside the relationship for intimacy.
Whereas, someone who has monogamy as a true value would introspect and look inwards as to what had them break their promise or cause the shift in intimacy and trust. Someone with monogamy as a value might even get into communication with their partner or spouse before even going outside of the relationship.
There are moments in every person’s life where you’ve got a chance and choice to make between what you deem a value and what is a virtue.
And the thing is, it requires your constant awareness and attention to who you want to be, otherwise what you value will quickly become a virtue.
The important thing is to be clear with yourself.
It’s a choice only YOU can make
Choosing to value something is a moment by moment choice and the minute I stop choosing it as a value, that’s the moment it becomes a virtue.
So ultimately what I’ve found to be useful to me is that every time I’m faced with a difficult decision that requires me to challenge what I value vs what’s a virtue for me, I always ask myself the question “what kind of man do I want to be?”
I find asking myself that question enables me to true myself up to my values and act consistent with that, when it would seem to be easier to forego that value, at the time.
So for you reading this today, I encourage you to take a moment out of your day and examine what it is that you say you value and see if you can distinguish where your value has become a virtue. Ask yourself “what kind of man do I want be?” and operate consistent with that.
It’s an opportunity for you to gain a new level of power in your self and consequently up-level your performance in all other areas of your life.
This article was originally published on Scott Destephanis’ blog.
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