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Online Edition — February 2003

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The Seven Essential Virtues of Moral Intelligence
From Building Moral Intelligence by Michele Borba, (pp. 6-8).

  1. Empathy is the core moral emotion that allows your child to understand how other people feel. This is the virtue that helps him become more sensitive to the needs and feelings of others, be more likely to help those who are hurt or troubled, and treat others more compassionately. It is also the powerful moral emotion that urges your child to do what is right because he can recognize the impact of emotional pain on others, stopping him from acting cruelly.
  2. Conscience is a strong inner voice that helps your child decide right from wrong and stay on the moral path, zapping her with a dose of guilt whenever she strays. This virtue fortifies your child against forces countering goodness and enables her to act right even in the face of temptation. It is the cornerstone for the development of the crucial virtues of honesty, responsibility, and integrity.
  3. Self-control helps your child restrain his impulses and think before he acts so that he behaves right and is less likely to make rash choices with potentially dangerous outcomes. This is the virtue that helps your child become self-reliant because he knows he can control his actions. It is also the virtue that motivates generosity and kindness because it helps your child put aside what would give him immediate gratification and stirs his conscience to do something for someone else instead.
  4. Respect encourages your child to treat others with consideration because she regards them as worthy. This is the virtue that leads your child to treat others the way she would like to be treated, and so lays the foundation to preventing violence, injustice, and hatred. When your child makes respect a part of her daily living, she will be more likely to care about the rights and feelings of others; as a result, she will show greater respect for herself, too.
  5. Kindness helps your child show his concern about the welfare and feelings of others. By developing this virtue, your child will become less selfish and more compassionate, and he will understand that treating others kindly is simply the right thing to do. When your child achieves kindness, he will think more about the needs of others, show concern, offer to help those in need, and stick up for those who are hurt or troubled.
  6. Tolerance helps your child appreciate different qualities in others, stay open to new perspectives and beliefs, and respect others regardless of differences in race, gender, appearance, culture, beliefs, abilities, or sexual orientation. This is the virtue that influences your child to treat others with kindness and understanding, to stand up against hatred, violence, and bigotry, and to respect people primarily on the basis of their character.
  7. Fairness leads your child to treat others in a righteous, impartial, and just way so that she will be more likely to play by the rules, take turns and share, and listen openly to all sides before judging. Because this virtue increases your child’s moral sensitivity, she will have the courage to stick up for those treated unfairly and demand that all people—regardless of race, culture, economic status, ability, or creed—be regarded equally.

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