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

Activity 1: 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 responsibility.

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

  • What have you been told about responsibility: What it means, when to use it, when not to use it?
  • What does “irresponsible” mean to you? Have you ever been told that you acted in an irresponsible way? Who decided it was irresponsible?
  • Is there anyone you admire who is responsible?
  • Can someone be too responsible? What does that look like?
  • To whom, or to what, are you responsible? Who decides?
  • What other questions come to mind when you think about responsibility?
  • What happens if responsibility is not moderated?

Invite youth to share their reflections, with statements that start off with “On the positive side…” or “On the negative side…”. For example, “On the positive side, when I have responsibilities in a group, I feel I truly belong.” or “On the negative side, if I take on too many responsibilities, I get burned out and then I’m no good to myself or anybody else.” If youth have statements that do not fit either clause, discuss them as a group.

Make sure the discussion covers these points:

  • Sometimes being responsible toward one person or commitment can cause you to act less responsibly toward someone, or something, else. At times, you may need to balance competing responsibilities.
  • The virtue of moderation has a place here, too. Everyone must decide for themselves where to place the bar on matters of responsibility. Take the issue of drunk driving. You might be responsible to the level of: “I don’t drink and drive.” Or, you might set your bar higher, to the level of: “I prevent my friends from driving drunk.” What is the difference? Is there yet another level?
  • Encourage the youth to think of responsibility as coinage. You cannot take on responsibility for the entire world. You need to decide which responsibilities are most important to you.