Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: What We Choose: An Adult Program on Ethics for Unitarian Universalists

Activity 3: A Question of Virtue

Part of What We Choose

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint, markers, and tape

Description of Activity

Introduce the activity with these or similar words:

What we view as virtuous is frequently driven by context. The virtuous action in one situation may be different from the virtuous action given another set of circumstances. With that in mind, imagine that a friend does something that makes you angry. One extreme response on your part might be to explode with rage. The other extreme might be to say nothing at all.

Invite participants to make a list of all the possible actions one could make in this situation (exploding with rage, refusing to speak, explaining what made you angry, and so on) and record the list on newsprint. Go through the list and decide together whether or not each action is virtuous. Acknowledge that there may be differences of opinion; what one person views as virtue another may think is not virtuous at all. While participants may want to discuss differences at length, encourage them to make a general decision or agree to disagree and not get too bogged down. After going through the list, invite each participant to identify which one response or action they consider the most virtuous in this situation and share their reasoning. Point out that often how we decide what is virtuous is embedded in our cultural context, and that what is most virtuous in a given situation is often decided by implicit community, family, or group consensus, but rarely discussed. Invite participants to reflect on how difficult or easy it was to agree on which actions were virtuous when asked to consider them one by one. Ask: "Was there any difference in the ease or difficulty when you had to choose the overall most virtuous action?"