What counts as the good life? What constitutes happiness? What do we really need in order to flourish as human beings? Many of us would associate these questions with the late-night conversations we love to have with friends or the subjects we explore together on long afternoon walks.
Lately I’ve been getting invitations to speak to youth about the virtues, so I’ve been trying to recall my own early training on the subject. I grew up in a Lutheran church, and much of who I am can be traced back to second- and third-generation Christian immigrants who believed in using their skills to help people in need. What I learned about the virtues, I learned through doing. In terms of any formal training, however, I remember almost nothing.
I write this near the end of a doctor of ministry class at Columbia Seminary, where 16 pastors are exploring virtues for preaching. We are exploring virtues instead of skills because most of us recognize that scholarly exegesis, narrative flair and good eye contact have gotten us about as far as they will.