Virtues and our relationships

As we reflect on life, personal actions, and the events around us, we wonder what can lead us to a happier life, and we often think that our relationships influence this happiness, as well as how coexistence would be easier and more peaceful if moral issues and ethics were common concerns.

When we think of moral actions and ethical theories, some questions arise, such as: How much are our actions moral? What ethical theory should I follow? Will moral and ethical actions really contribute positively to my personal and professional relationships?

I believe that our morality must be a constant concern, an incessant reflection of our actions, as well as the recognition of what social rules we allow and accept as certain, certainly how much we care about others is also fundamental.

  I imagine that the various ethical theories make us reflect on our actions from different perspectives, as well as on the actions of others. However, there is always one that stands out at some point, one that becomes preferred. Preferences are not only in personal choices that govern our relationships with family and friends, but also in the professional realm within organizations through their relationships and decisions, and not necessarily they will coincide.

Among the most recognized ethical theories, I will focus on the ethics of virtues that have been the attention of scholars in recent years. Whenever I think about virtues I come up with several questions, such as: What is the meaning of virtues? Is there any degree of hierarchy about them? If so, how do I define it? Do we have to prefer some and forget others? If there are some more important than others, how do I set priorities?

Some time ago I would have listed some virtues as more important, which would be those we normally choose, as if it were common sense, without much explanation and with little depth of reflection. But today, I realize that some of the virtues that have been forgotten or simply ignored are also very valuable.

I believe each virtue has its importance, and we will often not develop one without relying on the development of others. We realize that some stand out as if they were the flagship of acting, and perhaps they are, as is the case with phronesis; courage; honesty, among others. I realize now that we need to think not only about their importance, but also about knowing them and knowing which one to prioritize under a given circumstance.

I wonder how good it would be to have in our acquaintances more of the virtues such as docility, compassion, and love; We would certainly not forget justice, honesty, integrity, among others, but we would complement them.

When Aristotle wrote about the virtues, he referred to them as a “way” to reach Good, a Good Life, Happiness. He distinguished them between virtues of intelligence and moral virtues, making clear their dependence on them. At that time there was no need to categorize the use of virtues, as in the case of organizations, but we live in a different moment, where the analysis and reflections permeate different areas of knowledge.

Hoft (2013, p. 187) states that defining a virtue employed is a complex act, because it is necessary to know the intention of the agent, and not always what I see (which is the result of the action) matches the reason (what defines it). He puts, for example, that clearly distinguishing whether an act is of kindness or compassion is very difficult “[…] the way we conceptually sculpt the phenomena of virtuous human behavior into specific virtue classifications is highly complex and probably relative to culture.” The author mentions that, unlike Greek, the English language allows subtle differentiations, where a category of virtue allows the existence of subcategories, such as integrity that can mean honest actions or authentic reflections about yourself.

Even with the difficulties presented, it is appropriate to know their existence and how relationships can be improved. Only by knowing them can we distinguish and choose the virtues appropriate to the given situation. And only by knowing ourselves, knowing what our abilities and weaknesses are, will we be able to improve our lives, aiming for the good life, the good and the happiness. After all, we are not so different from Aristotle, we all seek to live well and aim for happiness.

Klaus Schwab (2016), founder and CEO of the World Economic Forum, mentioned, his insight into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, according to his article that it will “[…] change not only what we do but also who we are.” Although he is a technology enthusiast, he fears that integrating technology into our lives may undermine some of human capabilities, such as compassion and cooperation. He points out that it all comes down to people and values after all, and admits to the possibility that human nature is “robotic” depriving us of heart and soul, but there is also the possibility that we are “improved” by accentuating creativity. and empathy, raising humanity to a new collective and moral conscience, it is up to us to decide what will prevail.

I do not know if we can say that virtues today are more important than they were at other times, but it is difficult to disagree with their importance in relationships if we are to achieve the good life and happiness.


HOOFT, Stan Van. A ética das virtudes. Petrópolis, Vozes, 2013.

MARQUES, Ramiro. O livro das virtudes de sempre: ética para professores. São Paulo: Landy, 2001.

SCHWAB, Klaus. A quarta revolução industrial: o que significa, como responder. 2016. World Economic Forum. Disponível em: Acesso em: 08 nov. 2019.

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