By Regina Freedman, M.S.Ed., ACC
There are many helpful assessment tools for career and life coaches to use with their clients who are making major life and career decisions. As helpful as they are, they are remiss in exploring the values of a spiritual, moral, and ethical nature. As Christian coaches, adding the assessment of virtues can enhance the coaching experience, especially for clients who want to include spirituality in their life and work journeys.
I often use work values inventories in career coaching when I am working with multi-talented individuals and those who have several interests. It is helpful for these clients to narrow down their search for suitable occupations as they consider their values.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, a value is defined as the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, usefulness of something; a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life. Described as similar within the definition are moral principles, ethics, and moral code.
Most work values inventories concentrate on items such as advancement, artistic, competition, creative expression, fast pace, order, security, time freedom, location, and leadership – to name a few. One effective work values inventory (source unknown) that I use in my coaching practice lists 51 items. Out of these 51, there are only three that assess a moral or spiritual value – ethics, help society, and helping others.
For life coaches, one of many useful values inventories is the Life Values Inventory, (Duane Brown & R. Kelly Crace) that has eight of 40 items listed as moral or spiritual values which are: being sensitive to others; downplaying compliments or praise; believing in a higher power; helping others; being trustworthy; believing there is something greater than ourselves; being concerned about the rights of others; living in harmony with my spiritual beliefs.
The number of moral and ethical values listed in most of the work and life inventories are closely related to what philosophers and Christians would define as virtues. The dictionary’s definition of a virtue is behavior showing high moral standards.
According to The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, it states that there are four cardinal virtues (temperance, justice, prudence, and fortitude) that are considered natural virtues going back as far as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. They continue to state that Christianity added three virtues of faith, hope, and love (charity) and according to Christian teaching, these theological virtues do not originate from humanity, as do the natural virtues; instead, they are imparted by God. Through further research, I found that the cardinal virtues can be traced back to the Bible in the Book of Wisdom 8:7 which reads: “if one loves righteousness, whose works are virtues, Wisdom (She) teaches moderation and prudence, righteousness and fortitude, and nothing in life is more useful than these.” (Apocrypha, American Catholic Bible)
The origin of the theological virtues which are commonly known as faith, hope, and love are found in 1 Corinthians 13 where Paul the Apostle says, “Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – the greatest of these is love.” (New Living Translation)
When one combines the four cardinal virtues of temperance, prudence, justice, and fortitude with the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love these become the seven commonly known virtues that are considered important to live a virtuous life.
In the sixth century, Pope Gregory rewrote the seven virtues as chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, kindness, patience, and humility in opposition to the seven deadly sins of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, envy, wrath, and pride which were attributed to the writings of Prudentius, a Roman Catholic poet, in the fifth century. With this revision in mind, how different are they from the original seven virtues as revealed in the Bible?
Chastity can be interpreted as part of prudence; diligence as fortitude; kindness as love; patience and humility could be part of temperance. In this list of Pope Gregory’s virtues, it eliminates hope, justice, and faith.
As a Christian career and life coach, I thought to assemble a list of virtues that encompass the four cardinal virtues, the three theological virtues, four of Pope Gregory’s list of virtues, and two others – forgiveness and honesty.
Forgiveness is a virtue that Jesus addresses in His Lord’s Prayer, “and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” (Luke 11:4, New Living Translation)
The virtue of honesty is evident in Proverbs 12:22, “The Lord detests lying lips, but He delights in those who tell the truth.” (New Living Translation)
Clearly, forgiveness could be included in the virtue of kindness or love and honesty could be interpreted as faith. I have developed a Virtues Scale assessment tool where I include forgiveness and honesty on their own. The inventory includes thirteen items: just, prudent, temperate, strong, faithful, hopeful, charitable, diligent, kind, humble, patient, forgiving, and honest. The assessment is a complement to any values inventories that coaches use in their services.
I worked with a client who was unhappy in a job even though it met her interests, skills, and personality. My client couldn’t tolerate working in this position for much longer. I administered a work values inventory, and we were able to confirm that this position did provide her with her values, yet she longed for a change. During a series of coaching sessions, we were able to identify the core of her dissatisfaction. At first, we identified that the work environment was filled with management that promoted unfair business practices including lying to customers, using corporate funds for lavish bonuses for those who met their quotas at the expense of any sense of a moral code. Once my client realized that she was looking for an environment that met the virtues of honesty, prudence, and justice we moved closer to her next step. I asked her permission to administer a Virtues Scale that I had developed. Through the process of rating virtues, she was able to recognize that she needed to do work on some of the items herself instead of focusing on what others valued. She was able to forgive her manager for actions she did not approve of, and she had the fortitude to leave the position with the hope of finding a more suitable career path. She is now in a certificate program where she respects herself and others in the program and is now working on patience, another virtue she chose to apply in this stage of her career development. Working on virtues was an integral part of my client’s progress. She was open to the addition of a spiritual perspective.
For clients who are not spiritual and prefer viewing the world through a secular lens, virtues can be addressed as values in a good society cloaked as natural values with no connection to the Bible. The Virtues Scale assessment tool can be administered to non-believers, however Christian coaches who have permission to identify virtues as God-given have the added dimension of bringing the Holy Spirit into the coaching experience.
If you are interested in using this assessment tool, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you the Virtues Scale.
I hope you find this assessment helpful for yourself and for your clients.