The Most Important Virtue
University-Model® schools should always be promoting the virtues, but especially the foundational virtue of self-acceptance which has been missing from our understanding of spiritual development far too long. Parents and teachers need to understand that the virtue of self-acceptance is not at all the same thing as the feeling of self-esteem, and that patience with the self is something that can be taught and caught through a process that takes time, encouragement, faith, and an ongoing experience of God’s love.
Sarah Groen-Colyn, in an article for the Society of Christian Psychology has captured the value of this important virtue:
The virtue of self-acceptance is key to a distinctly Christian, theocentric understanding of what it is to be human. Virtue is an ancient name for human rightness, and when we apprehend virtue, we are beholding the true nature of human existence. Where the tradition of modern psychology has focused on understanding psychopathology, it is the prerogative of Christian psychology to illuminate human wholeness, the redeemed and perfected image of God in men and women. The language of virtue helps us in this creative task. The virtue of acceptance of the self, or patience with the self, opens the door to human maturity.
The virtue of self-acceptance begins in humility and faith but it also involves personal struggle, love and encouragement from others (especially one’s father), along with the rich experience of God’s love. Accepting ourselves as we are, being patient with our limitations and weaknesses, liberates us to find emotional well-being, deliverance from introspection and self-hatred, and freedom from the opinions and judgments of others. Those who have achieved the virtue of self-acceptance have, in a deep sense, come into a state of emotional and spiritual rest. Understanding we are accepted and loved by God not for any effort or accomplishment of our own, we are at peace with ourselves and with others.
To promote this virtue, struggle, opposition, and failure need to be re-contextualized. Failure is not a judgment on the self, but a challenge to it, an opportunity. A distorted value of performance has made everyone think student effort is all about achievement. But performance does not equal value. While modern education seeks to remove difficulties and make life easy, in University-Model® schools we want to help students achieve self-acceptance, and then add obstacles and encourage students to overcome them!