Primary Virtue. Respect.
Respect is honoring the worth or dignity in a person or process. When we respect others, we take their preferences and ideas seriously. We thoughtfully weigh our own insights and experiences against theirs.
Respect is merited particularly by those who are our elders, because knowledge, insight and wisdom often are hard won through a lifetime of discipline and learning.
Cultivating respect as a virtue does not mean insisting that all ideas, beliefs, or actions are respect-worthy. It does mean that we recognize the basic human dignity of others, even when their ideas or values are different than our own. A general attitude of respect also assumes that each person has something to teach us if we are willing to learn.
People who respect each other trust and support each other and value each other's independence. They also have the freedom to be themselves, talk honestly and freely, and make decisions and compromises together. They respect boundaries and encourage each other to spend time with friends and family.
Respect is one of mankind’s most noble sentiments. The highest levels of respect are always earned – never given. This is true of self-respect as well as respect for others. Before granting the highest level of self-respect or respect for others, make sure the person is worthy of the honor.
Ethics is a systematic approach to questions of right and wrong. Ultimately our ethical concerns have to do with our wellbeing as individuals and as small communities within the greater community of humankind.
Throughout human history, people have wrestled with how best to approach ethical questions--how to balance the happiness of an individual against the wellbeing of other individuals or the collective. Each ethical philosophy or religion expresses some attempt to find this balance.
Although ethics is a field of rational, scholarly discourse, the beginnings of ethics are built into our very bodies. They are rooted in moral emotions such as empathy, shame, and guilt. Moral intuition and reasoning emerge similarly in children across cultures, and they are nurtured by adults. We build on these moral emotions and instincts by making agreements with each other, weigh costs and benefits of different courses of action, looking to ethical scholars, and drawing on the wisdom of our ancestors.
Excellence is striving for quality or merit in all that we do. A focus on excellence means we take time, work hard and think carefully about a project or activity. Excellence lets us take pride in our accomplishments. We are guided by a vision or an ideal, and we do our best to make it a reality.
Excellence must be tempered by balance, because when we seek excellence in one area, we risk neglecting our other values and priorities. It doesn't mean being perfect; it means using our abilities and opportunities to their fullest. Whatever our mission in life, a commitment to excellence brings us closer to living it well and to attaining our dreams.
Honor is a sense of pride in integrity and responsibility. It places great value on our commitments—and on the expectations that others have of us by virtue of our position and those commitments. Honor seeks excellence.
Honor means striving to live up to the demands of our social roles, whether we have chosen those role voluntarily or life has bestowed them unasked. It means we recognize whatever power has been given to us, and we seek to use it carefully and well.
Fairness means treating people equitably, without bias or partiality. It means actively working to set aside self interest or group loyalty when rendering a judgment. In day to day life, fairness manifests itself in simple ways such as taking turns, listening intently, sharing, and not taking advantage of others based on their weaknesses.
Impartiality is a key part of fairness. Being impartial doesn’t mean having no biases—rather it means knowing what those biases are, striving to set them aside, and requesting outside perspectives as needed.
While inspired by the ideal of justice, fairness is not sameness or always following the letter of the law. Fairness makes room for us to generate solutions and compromises based on reason and circumstance.