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VIRTUE

Definition of the word of the week (VIRTUE): The quality of moral excellence; integrity of character; purity of soul; performance of duty

I recently had the opportunity to lead a group of high school students through a course on ethics. In many ways that experience was much like preaching. Every day that I entered the classroom I did so with the overwhelming knowledge that I had no right to teach this subject, that I was simply not good enough to lead young men and women in any discussion regarding ethics or how one should live. I did it anyway, because it was expected and I enjoyed spending my afternoons with twenty two, sixteen and seventeen year olds. I probably learned more than they did and I am quite sure that twenty years from now they will not remember anything that I said, but I hope that the seeds planted during that time will have grown to fruition and they will have become men and women of virtue. If this becomes truth rather than just my dream, then my time with them will have been worthwhile. If this group of young men and women mature knowing that the question of how one should act grows out of the larger question of what kind of person one should be, then I have done my job and my feelings of inadequacy can be laid to rest. Perhaps I can be laid to rest knowing that the virtues that I deem important – courage, honor, trust, integrity, and love – will live eternally in the lives of not only those I taught for that brief period of time, but in the lives of all they touch. I think maybe that it took the virtue of courage to stand in front of those bright young people and talk about things I know and things I do not. Maybe it was the virtue of responsibility. Maybe, just maybe, it was and still is the virtue of love. Aristotle once said that virtue is habit, it involves both feeling and action, that it seeks the mean between the excess and deficiency relative to us, and that most importantly it promotes human flourishing. Ask yourself these questions as you interact with those around you this week and those to come, “How should I act?” and “What kind of person do I want to be?” I hope that, as you answer them, you realize the importance of developing good moral habits, of finding the middle ground between excess and deficiency, and that you realize that what you are and how you act allows those around you to flourish.

The following quotations are intended to assist in explaining and exemplifying the word of the week:

Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point. C.S. Lewis

Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions. G.K. Chesterton

The superior man thinks always of virtue; the common man thinks of comfort. Confucius

The most virtuous are those who content themselves with being virtuous without seeking to appear so. Plato

The time is always right to do what is right. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wisdom is knowing what to do next, skill is knowing how to do it, and virtue is doing it. David Starr Jordan

All virtue is summed up in dealing justly. Aristotle

LTC Scott Seagraves, Georgia Military College Prep School Faculty, prepared this study guide as part of the institution’s character education program. Comments and suggestions from readers are welcome at 478-445-2710 or by email at pbeer@gmc.cc.ga.us.