The Seven Capital Virtues
Remember that “a virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself.” (CCC 1803)
Once you figure out which sins you struggle with the most, you can learn about the virtues that will help you get rid of those ugly sins and make you into the best of yourself—the person God created you to be.
Click on each virtue to learn more.
Humility is associated with the beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). What a great promise to the humble! Christ tells them that the kingdom of heaven is theirs! The great news about humility is that it combats the sin of pride. Just as pride is the greatest sin, one that we battle in big and small ways on a day-to-day basis, humility is the great virtue that helps destroy our pride. It is the root and foundation of other virtues, since it is in humility that you become detached from your selfish desires so you can become completely attached to God.
What is humility?
Like the beatitude says, humility is “poverty of spirit.” It helps us acknowledge our own defects and have a “lowly” opinion of self, not to be confused with a low opinion of self. With this lowly disposition, we willingly submit ourselves to God and to others for God’s sake. Humility tempers the disorderly desire for personal greatness and leads us to an orderly love of self out of appreciation for our role in life with respect to God and our neighbors.
Living with humility
Humility is such a beautiful virtue. The more we grow in it, the more we are at peace and able to grow closer to God. As Donald DeMarco writes, “Humility is the mother of many virtues, because from it knowledge, realism, honesty, strength, and dedication are born.”
3 ideas to help you grow in humility
- Be quick to recognize others over yourself. In our pride, we often want recognition for things we do—our accomplishments, good deeds, etc. One way to grow in humility is to give recognition to a classmate, coworker, fellow ministry worker, etc. instead of seeking recognition for something for yourself.
- Thank God. Remember that the talents and gifts you have are given to you by God. He has helped you achieve your successes and accolades. So make sure to thank Him when you are recognized for some achievement or given praise, instead of accepting all congratulations for yourself.
- Be realistic. Practice being honest with yourself about your own strengths and weaknesses. When we grow in self-awareness, we grow in humility.
What do the experts say?
“A trusting humility brings us back into the light of communion between the Father and his Son Jesus Christ and with one another, so that ‘we receive from him whatever we ask.’” –CCC 2631
“Humility like the darkness, reveals the heavenly lights.” –Henry David Thoreau
“To be taken with love for a soul, God does not look on its greatness, but the greatness of its humility.” –St. John of the Cross
“Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.” –Saint Augustine
What sin will humility remedy?
The good news about humility is that it helps us rid ourselves of pride.
Generosity, or liberality, is associated with the beatitude, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). Mercy and generosity often go beyond reason. They exemplify the heart of a disciple of Christ.
Generosity combats the sin of greed. Greed is about getting, while generosity is all about giving. In giving, rather than desiring to always “get,” we find true joy and look forward to the generous gift of heaven that, God-willing, awaits us someday.
What is generosity?
To be generous is to be merciful. Generosity, or liberality, is a spirit of giving of one’s money or possessions for proper and worthy charity. The greatest generosity is the generosity of God. He has generously given us life, in His image and likeness, and has given us the gift of Himself, in Christ’s offering on the Cross for our sins. This is the kind of self-giving generosity we all should aspire to.
Living with generosity
Our culture gives us the impression that greed makes us richer. But that couldn’t be any farther from the truth. It is greed that impoverishes us, while generosity sets us free, making us truly happy and “wealthy” in all the right ways. When we are truly generous, we are close to God, who in acts of supreme generosity created us and redeemed us.
3 ideas to help you grow in generosity
- Give of your time to help another. Often, our time can seem like one of our most valuable commodities. Perhaps a relative or friend who is ill could use a visit, or maybe a ministry at church could use a few hours of your volunteering time.
- Be exceptionally generous with your almsgiving. As Dr. Edward Sri puts it, “God blessed each of us with a certain amount of wealth, in part, so that we would justly share it with those who serve us. To neglect tithing, however, is to treat our possessions as if they are our own. It is to become like a steward who steals his master’s wealth and does with it whatever he pleases for himself.”
- Be generous in your family. Is there someone in your family who needs you to be exceptionally generous in your love for them right now? Who closest to you can shower with a liberal dose of generous care, by helping them with a project, chore, etc.? Think of something small you can do for him or her today or this week.
What do the experts say?
“Teach us to give and not to count the cost.” –St. Ignatius of Loyola
“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” –Blessed Mother Teresa
“In all things I have shown you that by so toiling one must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, `It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” –Acts 20:35
“In gratitude we are human; in generosity we are divine.” –Donald DeMarco
What sin will generosity remedy?
The good news about generosity is that it help us get rid of greed in our lives.
Meekness, or forgiveness, is associated with the beatitude, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). Meekness is not weakness. It is a submission to God, motivated by love.
Meekness combats the sin of anger in our lives. We know that Jesus was totally submissive to the will of the Father, and was never given to sinful anger, as we see in the Scriptures. This is the kind of meekness that we need to aspire to.
What is meekness?
Meekness is a virtue that moderates anger and controls resentment toward others. It is finding strength through submission to God. Meekness helps us to keep our cool and remain ourselves in the midst of adversity.
Living with meekness
When we forgive and demonstrate meekness toward people or situations that may make us angry, God promises that He will forgive us, too. Remember the words of the Our Father: “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Meekness, or forgiveness, can be a hard virtue to practice, when we are tempted to hold grudges or give in to unjust anger. But if we can learn how to temper this temptation, we reap the wonderful promises of God.
Three ideas to help you grow in meekness
- Find your peace verse. In other words, learn one of the many Scripture verses that bring you peace (the Psalms are a great place to look) and recite it to yourself when you are faced with a situation that could lead you to anger. This short prayerful reminder can work wonders in keeping you calm.
- Be quick to forgive. Practice resisting the urge to hold grudges by being quick to forgive those who hurt you. Learning how to quickly forgive those in your own home can be a great way to grow in meekness, since sometimes it is hardest to forgive those closest to us.
- Go to Confession regularly. Make sure you get to the Sacrament of Reconciliation as often as possible. We recommend once a month, or however often your spiritual director recommends.
What do the experts say?
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” –Colossians 3:12-13
“With all humility and meekness, with patience, [support] one another in charity.” –Ephesians 4:2
“Nothing is more powerful than meekness. For as fire is extinguished by water, so a mind inflated by anger is subdued by meekness.” –St. John Chrysostom
“When we have to reply to anyone who has insulted us, we should be careful to do it always with meekness. A soft answer extinguishes the fire of wrath. If we feel ourselves angry, it is better for us to be silent, because we should speak amiss; when we become tranquil, we shall see that all our words were culpable.” –Saint Alphonsus Liguori
What sin will meekness remedy?
The great news about meekness is that it helps us rid ourselves of anger in our lives.
Zeal, or diligence, is associated with the beatitude, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). We all have hungers, but zeal helps order our hunger toward God and give us the diligence to seek union with God passionately and do good for others.
Zeal combats the ugly sin of sloth. While sloth makes us lazy in our spiritual lives, zeal gives us the fervent, action-oriented desire to progress forward, and, in doing so, we please God and find true happiness and peace.
What is zeal? Zeal is a strong, action-oriented desire to advance in the spiritual life and move in the direction of righteousness. Zeal puts love into action and strengthens the resolution to progress in virtue and sanctity.
Living with zeal The zealous person may: make spiritual things a priority each day (prayer, concern for others, Scripture reading, etc.), be setting spiritual goals for himself and tracking his progress over time, seek a spiritual director to help him as he tries to grow in virtue, be fervent in going good deeds for others, desire to keep learning more about the Faith, etc.
What do the experts say? “Zeal reveals to us all the difference between a world grown merely secular and old, and the youthfulness of Christian love.” –Anthony Esolen
“Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord.” –Romans 12:11
“Brethren, do not be weary in well-doing.” –2 Thessalonians 3:13
“But do we hunger for goodness? Everyone hungers to receive good, but not everyone hungers to give good, for not everyone knows that ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive.’” –Dr. Peter Kreeft
What sin will zeal remedy?
Solicitude, Admiration, Brotherly Love
Solicitude, or brotherly love and admiration, is associated with the beatitude, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). This beatitude is about finding blessedness through suffering. Suffering, like solicitude, strengthens our love for our neighbor, even when he has or accomplished things that can make us envious.
Solicitude combats the sin of envy. While envy resents the good fortune of another person, solicitude cares for the welfare of another. Brotherly love rejoices in another person’s success.
What is solicitude?
Solicitude is care or concern for the well being of others. It also involves admiring someone for his skills and accomplishments.
Living with solicitude
Anthony Esolen writes, “Our name for this vice [envy] derives from the Latin invidia, which literally means the habit of seeing things twisted (the inner meaning of our word wrong) or inside-out…My brother considers well before he speaks; I call him sly. My sister weeps when she sees an animal suffering; I call her a sentimentalist. My friend crosses himself and says grace before he eats his lunch in the cafeteria; I call him a religious zealot. Envy does worse than attribute vices to people who are not vicious. It grieves at the sight of their very virtues, and turns those virtues the wrong side out.” In this way, envy is dangerous for our spiritual lives and keeps us feeling pretty lousy. Solicitude, however, frees us from these feelings and vice.
Three ideas to help you practice solicitude
- Genuinely congratulate and encourage others to accomplish good things, even if you would like to be recognized for those same things (ex. authorship, promotions, etc.).
- Refrain from thinking poorly about those who have more (or more recognizable) skills than you in certain areas.
- Be conscious of the welfare of others. For example, help another person achieve a goal of his this week, month, or year.
What do the experts say?
“What is the mark of love for your neighbor? Not to seek what is for your own benefit, but what is for the benefit of the one loved, both in body and in soul.” –St. Basil
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”—John 13:34
“Love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor.” –Romans 12:10
“Love to be real, it must cost—it must hurt—it must empty us of self.” –Blessed Mother Teresa
What sin will solicitude remedy?
The good news about solicitude is that it helps us get rid of envy in our lives.
Temperance is associated with the beatitude, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). In holding fast in the face of persecution, one shows the strength of self-sacrifice. Self-sacrifice and temperance are closely united.
Temperance combats the sin of gluttony. While gluttony is unrestrained in its consumption of food, drink, or other pleasures, temperance practices healthy moderation.
What is temperance?
Temperance is a virtue that moderates the attraction and desire for pleasure and “provides balance in the use of created goods” (CCC 1809). St. Thomas calls it a “disposition of the mind which binds the passions.”
Living with temperance
You’ve probably heard people say, “It’s all about moderation.” Well, it really is. More accurately, it’s all about temperance. Living with temperance frees us to partake in material goods in proportion with the way that is best for us and will bring us the most happiness in the end. Our culture today often promotes instant gratification, but temperance helps us achieve long-term happiness.
Three ideas to help you increase your temperance
- Moderate your food and drink. Practice not eating past the point of being full or drinking too much.
- Avoid excess. Practice doing without certain earthly goods that aren’t necessary. Maybe you can make a commitment not to buy too many extra clothes you don’t need or electronic gadgets you can live without.
- Reflect on the areas of your life that you have a difficult time practicing moderation in. Come up with a game plan to practice temperance with whatever that hang-up is.
What do the experts say?
“Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites.” –Sirach 18:30
“Temperance is a mean with regard to pleasures.” –Aristotle
“Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart.” –Sirach 5:2
“For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world” –Titus 2:11-12
“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” –Romans 13:14
What sin will temperance remedy?
The good news about temperance is that it helps us get rid of gluttony in our lives.
Chastity is associated with the beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). The pure of heart have the treasure of seeing God—the greatest gift of all. God loves purity of heart, because He can exist fully in a heart that is pure.
Chastity combats the ugly sin of lust. While lust is the disordered desire for or indulgence in impure sexual pleasure, chastity helps sexuality remain “personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman” (CCC 2337).
What is chastity?
“Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being” (CCC 2337).
Living with chastity
Chastity helps us bring our sexual appetites into agreement with our reason. Unchastity can leave us feeling empty. But God’s plan for us in living chaste lives is to allow us to experience the beautiful freedom, dignity, and love that He desires for us in our relationships.
3 considerations to help you grow in chastity
- Examine your closet. Do the clothes you wear emphasize the sacredness of your body? Do your clothes encourage others to look at you and maintain their purity and yours, or do your clothes encourage others to look at you with lust? Make adjustments if necessary.
- Think about the media you consume. Do the magazines you read, the sites you visit, and the shows and movies you watch build up the virtue of chastity? Or is the media you consume full of lustful images and messages that fight for your attention. Think about how you can adjust your media consumption to help you live a life that maintains your “purity of heart.”
- Reflect on your relationships—with your boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancé, spouse. Does your relationship with your loved one uphold the dignity of both of you? How can you change things so that both of you maintain chastity and, as a result, have an opportunity to live with the freedom and love that God has in store for both of you?
What do the experts say?
“Chastity is a difficult, long term matter; one must wait patiently for it to bear fruit, for the happiness of loving kindness which it must bring. But at the same time, chastity is the sure way to happiness.” –Blessed Pope John Paul II
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from unchastity” –1 Thessalonians 4:3
“But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” –Matthew 5:28
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” –Colossians 3:5
“Only the chaste man and the chaste woman are capable of true love.” –Blessed Pope John Paul II
What sin will chastity remedy?
The good news about chastity is that it helps us combat the sin of lust in our lives.