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

Activity 2: Two Sides to Every Virtue

Part of Virtue Ethics

Activity time: 10 minutes

Description of Activity

Participants identify positive and negative aspects of the virtue of respect.

Invite youth to sit for a moment and think about "respect" as a virtue. These prompts might be useful:

  • What have you been told about respect: What it means, when to use it, when not to use it?
  • What does respect mean to you? What does disrespect mean to you? Have you ever been told you acted in a disrespectful way? Who decided it was disrespectful? Did you agree, or not?
  • Can one ever be too respectful? What happens if respect is not moderated?
  • Is respect earned, or do you respect everyone? What does our first Principle ("The inherent worth and dignity of every person") say about respect?
  • Have you ever lost respect for someone or something? What did that feel like?
  • For the most part, do people treat you with respect?
  • To whom do you give the most respect? Are there people for whom you have absolutely no respect? If so, how do you reconcile this with the first Principle?
  • What other questions come to mind when you think about respect?

Invite youth to share their reflections, with statements that begin "On the positive side... " or "On the negative side... ." For example, "On the positive side, people who are widely respected can use their power for good causes, as with rock stars who promote charities;" "On the negative side, society tends to put people on a pedestal when they earn a great deal of respect and this can backfire, such as when a politician commits an act of corruption." Another example: "On the positive side, we may feel like a good person if we respect our elders; on the negative side, if an elder treats others disrespectfully, we may not hold them accountable for their behavior because we do not want to disrespect an elder." If youth offer observations about respect that are neither clearly positive nor clearly negative, process these as a group.

Make sure the discussion includes these points:

  • Some people disrespect people because of their age, gender, racial/ethnic identity, social or economic class, level of education, body size, ability, or other identities. Have you witnessed or experienced this?
  • Respect is one of those virtues that gets frequent lip service even when it is not an actual lived experience-that is, people may be quick to say they respect someone, yet their actions show otherwise. Have you witnessed or experienced this?