8 Virtues We Need to Teach the Next Generation
Published July 4, 2021
In Christianity, “virtue” is defined as the habitual and firm disposition to do the good. While traditional philosophy says that virtue is the “conformity of life and conduct with the principles of morality”. It allows people to perform good acts and give the best of themselves. It is embedded in our being and influences the way we act and react to things around us.
In short, our virtues are the good things we do that define us.
As Christians, our moral obligation is to cultivate and practice the virtues that we were taught as children. Not only that, but we need to pass it on to our children and grandchildren. We are their role models and they are our hope for a better world. If we can instill in them these virtues and train them up to be better Christians, then that is the greatest legacy we’ll ever leave.
Here are some of the Christian virtues that we need to teach the next generation.
In an age where we can pick a fight with a stranger we haven’t even seen in person, kindness seems like an option more than a virtue. We tend to be kind only to those people we like and block those we hate. It’s become easier for us to criticize people for their faults without even acknowledging the good things they’ve done.
Is this really the kind of world we want the next generation to inherit?
In the bible, it says:
“A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.” (Proverbs 11:17)
Indeed, kindness begets kindness. If you want to be treated with kindness, then be kind to others. This is the lesson we need to impart to our children. Nothing ever good comes out of cruelty. Thus, in every waking moment, choose to be kind. No matter who that person is, where they’re from, or how they’ve treated you.
When we hear the word “love”, we often think of the romantic kind. But love comes in all forms. It’s the binding force that keeps humanity alive and makes life worth living.
Unfortunately, it is also the most overused word. People throw it around so casually that it has lost its meaning. And that is what we need to teach the next generation: the true essence of love.
In his letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul describes love as:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hope, always perseveres. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Though this does not entirely capture the complexity of love, it’s a good start. We must teach them to love one another as we are all God’s children.
In one of his songs, American singer Billy Joel lamented that “honesty” is such a lonely word. That’s because this virtue is so much lacking in the world today.
Even our movies and TV shows make us think that cheating is normal. Almost everyone has cheated someone at some point in one way or another so that it doesn’t shock us anymore. This is why random acts of honesty become headlines. It’s why we offer rewards to people who return things to their rightful owners. Admit it or not, being honest has become the exception rather than the norm.
This is why we need to teach our children the virtue of honesty. Let us teach them to value integrity over material possessions. Show them that true happiness comes from being able to sleep peacefully at night knowing that you did not take advantage of anyone.
They say that charity begins at home. Thus, it is the parent’s responsibility to teach their children the virtue of giving.
I remember a scene in a show I was watching. The daughter was grumbling about having less food than her siblings. To which the father replied:
“My child, this is what you should remember: You should look at other people’s bowls not to see if they have more than you but to check if they have enough.”
The father’s reply perfectly sums up how charity works. This is the kind of mindset we need to instill in the next generation.
Admit it or not, social media has taken hold of our lives especially the younger generations. Every day, we see our friends, acquaintances, and even strangers posting about their perfect life online. The expensive foods they eat, the new car they bought, and the exotic places they go to are all splashed in our faces reminding us of how pathetic our lives are. This is why a lot of people go to extreme lengths just to outshow everyone.
But the truth is these things don’t matter. You may own all the wealth in the world, but it will not give you happiness. It will not give you peace of mind nor will it help you build meaningful relationships.
The key to happiness is contentment. And that is what we need to teach the young people of today. They need to learn to appreciate what they have and make the most out of it. Only then can they see what really matters most in life.
If you’re familiar with the seven capital sins, then you’ll know that pride is one of them. Humility is the Christian virtue that directly opposes pride. Where pride destroys relationships, humility heals. It keeps our feet firmly on the ground and reminds us that we are just a single speck in the universe.
Don’t get me wrong. Being proud of yourself and knowing your worth is good. But most of the time, it can lead us to think that we’re better than others. It gives us a skewed sense of self-importance. Humility allows us to accept that the world doesn’t revolve around us, that we won’t always be right and that other people’s opinions are valid too. And that is something that our children need to learn and understand.
Diligence is one of the seven heavenly virtues in the Christian tradition. Unfortunately, it is a virtue that is slowly eroding in our generation. In a time where almost everything can be done at the push of a button, persistence and hard work may seem like an outdated notion.
I’m not saying we should go back to the old days where everything is done manually. But we can certainly learn from how the people of those times value hard work.
If all the children in the world have these virtues, then maybe we’ll finally see the kind of world we’ve always been hoping for.
Growing up, we were often told that patience is a virtue. It’s also one of the seven virtues that are core to the Christian faith. But if you look around you, everything seems to be instant: food, coffee, messaging. Even dating has become instant. It’s no wonder then that this generation doesn’t like to wait. We tend to lose it with even the smallest things like when the internet breaks down while we’re streaming a movie. Or when our food is delivered late.
But as this Forbes article pointed out, there are benefits to being patient. For one, it helps you weigh your options more carefully and thus make better decisions. It also helps you develop traits that will eventually prepare you for success. Patiently waiting for and working hard for something also makes success a lot sweeter.
This is what the next generation needs to appreciate. Life is much better if we learn to slow down and appreciate the moment. After all, life is not just about money and achievements. It’s about living every moment to the fullest.
About The Author
Judy Ponio is a full time blogger and is devoted to topics about charity, kindness, and Christianity. She is part of Correct Digital, Inc which is paid by private donors to provide website digital marketing services to this non-profit organization.