Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Virtue Ethics: An Ethical Development Program for High School Youth


Part of Virtue Ethics

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint, markers, and tape
  • Chalice, candle, and lighter or LED battery-operated candle
  • Group covenant (Workshop 1)
  • Optional: Bicycle Rack newsprint sheet (Workshop 1)
  • Optional: Alternate Activity 1, Real Life Challenges

Preparation for Activity

  • Read Alternate Activity 1, Real Life Challenges. Prepare to incorporate it into this Opening, if you think you will have time and you observe that youth want to discuss challenges shared in their check-in.
  • Post the chalice lighting words.
  • Post the group covenant.
  • Post the Bicycle Rack sheet the group began in Workshop 1, Opening, or label a new sheet of newsprint "Bicycle Rack," and post.

Description of Activity

Invite a volunteer to light the chalice while you lead the group to recite the chalice lighting words:

The thought manifests as the word

The word manifests as the deed;

The deed develops into habit;

And habit hardens into character;

So watch the thought and its ways with care,

And let it spring from love

Born out of concern for all beings...

As the shadow follows the body,

As we think, so we become.

- from The Dhammapada, Sayings of the Buddha

Invite the youth to check in by sharing any moral challenges they have experienced since the last meeting. If appropriate, use Alternate Activity 1 to further explore the group's challenges. If youth appear interested in discussing a particular challenge but you feel there is not enough time in this meeting, ask the person who shared it to write a short description of the challenge on the Bicycle Rack.

Say, in your own words:

Today we will talk about moderation as a virtue. Another word for moderation is "temperance." [Ask if that word is familiar to anyone. If no one else does, mention the Temperance Movement which during the 19th and early 20th century worked to encourage, and eventually legislate, the moderate use of or abstinence from alcohol.] Today, the Temperance Movement is often mocked or played for laughs. It is portrayed as being promoted by stuffy old ladies who did not want anybody to have fun. Are you surprised to know that many prominent Unitarians and Universalists, including Susan B. Antony and Joseph F. Jordan, one of the first African American Universalist ministers, were involved in this movement?

This was because in the early nineteenth century, advances in the distillation of alcohol had led to growing rates of alcoholism and drunkenness, which contributed to crime, poverty, and health problems. The Temperance Movement was a cause that attracted many women because drunkenness among men affected many women and children. Alcoholism was a big contributing factor in growing rates of desertion of families and domestic abuse. A woman with a husband who drove the family into financial destitution, deserted the home, or beat them and/or the children had little recourse: Seldom could she find reputable work or get a divorce. She would never be entitled to custody of her children, because the legal status of a woman was almost like that of a child-a man's property. In the same legal and social situation, what would you do if you had an alcoholic husband or father?

Moderation is a virtue Unitarian Universalists believe in, as do most other religions.

Mention also that moderation is something to keep in mind as you discuss all virtues. Taking anything to the extreme-even virtuous behavior-can be bad for you. Share the quote from Petronius that introduced this workshop:

Moderation in all things, including moderation.

Remind youth of the discussion on decision making from in the previous workshop. Remind them of the notion of balancing values, to make decisions that do the least harm.