Fortitude: This is about sticking to something that is worthwhile. It relates to enduring until the goal is reached. Fortitude requires the willingness to suffer some, if necessary, to do what is right, good or healthful in the long haul. When people have this character trait, they do not allow the easy way out or an emphasis on convenience to overshadow these things.
Courage:Courage or bravery was defined by Lakota educator, Pat Locke, as the "strength of character which equips us to meet danger and trouble, to live our values, and to tell the truth in the face of ignorance." We cannot think of a better one. Courage is the quality of mind that enables us to risk what we value for a higher purpose.
Patience:Like all great things, the virtues blend into one another. They are interconnected. Patience, courage and fortitude especially share common requirements. Patience, however, as we see it, does not relate as much to fear of risking something, as does courage. Nor does it relate as much to enduring through action as does fortitude. Patience is more about waiting, tolerating, and forgiving. We are patient when we give others their own space and time. People who are patient are not easily provoked or revengeful and tend to remain calm during stressful situations.
Honesty:An honest person, in our opinion, does what he or she says. Honesty is about being trustworthy. People with this character trait truly care about truth and here we want to repeat Parker Palmer's definition of truth as being a "conversation about things that matter conducted with passion and discipline." The passion is about sincerity and the discipline relates to the five inner skills in the conceptual model. We see honesty as a subcategory of integrity.
Humility:American Indian people generally feel that many non-Indian people misunderstand this virtue. We regard humility as the essential ingredient for learning with all of our senses. We can only listen and pay true attention to something when we let go of our preconceptions. We cannot feel any arrogance over nature and its creatures. We cannot assume we already know the answers or that we are better or higher than another. To us, humility is not about humiliation, self-abasement, penitence for sin or being unworthy in the sight of God, according to our interpretation. Humility, as we are defining it, is a freedom from pride and arrogance that recognizes equity and equality. It is manifested by a great appreciation for the many gifts life and God have to offer us.
Generosity:Generosity is one of the most obvious virtues among American Indians. Lakota people actually measured their worth by how much they gave away. Those unadulterated too much by western culture's emphasis on material wealth still do. Generosity is about giving and/or sharing our time, our wealth, our ideas or our possessions in behalf of others. One way to think of it is as the opposite of greed or selfishness. A person with this trait has a good balance between taking care of self and taking care of others.
Spirituality: This refers to a genuine awareness of our great and mysterious connections with all aspects of the universe, both seen and unseen and includes a realization that there is a sacred force behind these interconnections. In Indian country, the Medicine Wheel teaches us that we are physical, emotional, mental and spiritual creatures and that each aspect is connected. Spirituality is more about the concern for great questions regarding life and death than about specific answers, which is the realm of the great religions. In American Indian thinking about spirituality, the great mystery about life is part of what makes it sacred. This kind of thinking honors all religions but cannot understand why people have been tortured or murdered if they do not choose one or the other. It allows us to consider that trees and animals may have souls and deserve respect. Once we begin to pick and choose whom or what has value, the great virtues take a detour away from respect and wisdom, then even courage, patience and fortitude can be used for destructive purposes. Ecological awareness is a vital aspect of spirituality. If we are indeed a part of a vast, mysterious and complex web of life, how can we continue to ignore what we are doing to our natural environment and the many life forms that surround us? Good character education keeps in mind the issue of sustainability, interdependence, diversity and partnerships as well as an acknowledgment of the wonderful mystery of life in which we are all entwined. Love, compassion and caring are also outflows of true spiritual awareness. If we see everything as our relatives and if we view these relationships as sacred, these three emotions are unavoidable.
Integrity:We use this word to describe what one has when one firmly adheres to and identifies with the virtues for the right reasons and when no one is looking. Integrity is acting on the awareness of spirituality. The origins of the word, "integer," are about "oneness." Integrity is a synonym for "good character," except that good character also, by our definition, calls for the following trait (peacefulness) as well.
Peacefulness:Note that in the conceptual model "good character" means high degrees of integrity and peacefulness. The word we use in the Lakota language for this idea is "Wolakota." Either refers to a sense of peacefulness in all relations. Rigid adherence to a code of behavior without this sense of peacefulness can be militaristic, sanctimonious or, at best, exhausting. Albert Schweitzer conveyed the importance of calmness on the road to character when he said, "Anyone who proposes to do good must not expect people to roll stones out of his way, but must accept his lot calmly, even if they roll a few stones upon it." Without this sense of peacefulness, frustration with barriers to character education can easily cause us to violate the principles and virtues we have learned to cherish. It is difficult to teach peacefulness without employing some form of the art of meditation. Even with such moments of quiet receptivity, peacefulness is usually something that comes from living a life that is guided by spiritual awareness of the invisible realms of existence.