Teaching Virtue for the Holidays

I believe the holidays should make us think and help us teach what is important, regardless of which holiday you celebrate. Virtue=Moral Excellence, Goodness, Righteousness.

But I particularly like the word “Goodness”. And not as the opposite of the Bad which Santa may catch you being. I’ll write on Santa another year.

There is a much different connotation to Goodness than to morality which seems rather religious in a forceful way.

I believe in goodness is respect for all creatures, kindness to others, being gentle to the earth, and generally wanting to be our best selves. Those are the things I want to teach my child and those are also what I strive to help with as a Parent Coach and educator. I feel it is my duty to help people become their best selves-whatever goodness that looks like to them.

I was raised in a family where we didn’t particularly strive to better ourselves. We were who we were and we were fine. We didn’t strive to care for the earth. We didn’t strive to be particularly kind, though we weren’t unkind. We didn’t strive to learn new things as a family. We didn’t strive to help the needy. We didn’t strive to fix our shortcomings or heal our interpersonal foibles or save the Earth. We didn’t strive to commune with or hear the messages of nature or of any God.

I had wonderful and loving parents who cared for me well and loved me deeply but I was longing for all of those things and I set about on a long and relentless mission to find my own sense of virtue and goodness and I thought that meant choosing the one right religion for me. But as it turns out, Virtue isn’t particularly religious and maybe not even always all that spiritual. Plenty of atheists know and do what is right. It is inherent in the human heart (though sometimes hidden by neglect or abuse). Some thoughts on ways to teach virtue from various traditions:

Something from Judaism:  Its a Mitzvah! A Mitzvah is a blessed action/ a good deed. My favorites are Lifelong Education, Tzedakah box (giving to charity daily or weekly!), Treating all books with respect, caring for animals, visiting the elderly or sick, sharing food with those less fortunate. Oh Hanukah celebrating miracles, light, gratefulness, perseverance and rebuilding. Mmm, so Good. Happy Hanukkah!

Something from Paganism: Reverence for the planet. For the living animals and humans and trees! Specifically the Oak (Mistletoe) and  apple trees (the ritual of Wassailing, to bring fertility) On Solstice/Yule? We Rest. On the shortest day of the year with the longest dark, people rest and then light candles and fires and meditate on light to re-welcome the sun. In some places like Nova Scotia, Solstice is also Children’s day, where you pay attention to and revere the children. The other pagan of Wassailing a this time of year is house Wassailing which started the newer tradition of caroling. Going to someone’s doorstep and singing?  Such Goodness. 

From Buddhism:  The 8-fold Path- Mindful Steps to Happiness always come up in parenting and family for me. Some of my favorites for teaching are Right/Skillful Speech (refraining from idle chatter, gossip, mean stuff!) and Right Livelihood (are we able to explain to our children how our work benefits the world and is kind work?). How can we be goodness in every moment by living rightly? Skillfull Meditation is another one. Slow down and pay attention. To our children. And teach them how to slow down, notice, meditate, concentrate.

Something from Christianity: The teachings of Christ to not judge others, to instead judge yourself and love others as you would yourself. To forgive yourself and others. No matter the sin, we are good underneath. Many branches of Christianity do a terrible job of these, but I ignore them and look at the original message. And on Christmas, regardless of whether Christ was actually born on that day, I believe should be a time to celebrate, follow and model such teachings.

Combined, these are the things I look forward to focusing on during the holiday season as opposed to a focus on gifts. My daughter little to get most of it now but I am doing my best to get into the swing of it. The first year I began focusing my holiday thoughts on virtues was the first year that I had been able to give small amounts to two charities of my own business budget: An Orphanage in South America and Women with HIV/AIDS in Seattle (BABES). That was also the first year I became involved in a volunteer position at Human Milk for Human Babies  Facebook.

I am trying imperfectly to set down and do personal inquiry into my many unChrist-like judgements about other people this season (the way they do the holidays, the way they consume, the way they parent. My mind can go to a really judgmental place and I don’t want to be there) and instead, just live inside the spirit of goodness. Take some moments to teach my child to sit and breathe and enjoy. Take a walk in the cold crisp air and be grateful for trees and stars.

What do you think? Is goodness, virtue or rightness subjective? Or is it concrete? Is it kindness or justice? What is goodness to you, in regard to your own spirituality?

Love,  Moorea



About mooreamalatt

Find my whole bio here: http://www.savvyparentingsupport.com/#!about/cktc
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4 Responses to Teaching Virtue for the Holidays

  1. Annicles says:

    I converted, specificallyfrom Christianity (my father is is C of E priest) to Judaism. All of what you talk of is found for me in Judaism but I can appreciate how anyone can find those precious parts of being human in many different religions or philosophies.

    To me, spirituality is something that is striven for throughout ones life and is influenced by ones experiences. That necesssarily means that the culture (immediate and general) that one grows up in has an influence, whether one is conscious or unaware of it. If you are conscious, you have a choice, if not, then you are accepting of whatever is immediately around you without question.

    For me, spirituality is amorphous but virtue is concrete. For instance, one cannot measure spirituality because it is within you, where-as virtue has an outer consequence. Of course, the outer show of virtue could be just show, and only inspired by a person being worried about how they seem to “the neighbours”. In that case I would argue that the good done is the same and it is worth it because the good is the same whether it is inspired by spiritual values or not. I would hope that one would come to appreciate the good one had done, even if the motive had been less that perfect, later, if that was the case.

    Personally, I strive for spiritual connection with God. I don’t care what anyone else wants to label that because I have chosen to accept a label that to me describes the universe, the ineffable, the unknown and unknowing. I also choose to accept that God is loving, creative, immanent and involved but not capricious.

    Thank you for making me think about this and put it into words.
    Anna xxxx


  2. I was surprised to see that the virtues listed in the section Something from Judaism seemed to suit me best.

    I think you’ve done a lovely job of distilling the virtues of several sects (for want of a better word) into effective summaries, btw.


  3. Moorea,
    I loved this! A ecumenical banquet of virtues! Thanks for this.
    Love, Nerissa


  4. maws says:

    December 25 was chosen and approved by a Pope as the Birth of Day of Jesus Christ.

    I’d like to share this FREE Christmas App – Jolly Jingle. It is design for kids to promote and spread the Christmas Spirit. http://www.jollyjingleapp.com


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