Ethics & Virtues

Our beliefs about love and how we live out love through values, views of right and wrong, and priorities.   

Healthy spirituality involves putting beliefs into practice.

We often think of spirituality as connecting to God or our source of transcendence through our thoughts and emotions, but spirituality is truly lived out in our day to day. Essential to spiritual health and thriving is a life of integrity. Although no one is perfect, the more aligned our actions are to our values, ethics, and beliefs, the more well-being and satisfaction we experience as we contribute to others. Ethics are defined as beliefs that inform and guide how we treat others and act as a kind of moral compass. Virtues are related, and involve patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that become habits and these habits enable us to respond morally in different situations to pursue purpose beyond ourselves. We think of virtues such as courage and patience as being rooted in our beliefs, but we often don't think of love as a virtue, yet offering it is perhaps the most virtuous thing we can do. When we cultivate virtues that enable us to do what is right, loving, and good across the changing complexities of life, we can joyfully contribute to our world.

A curated content list

Discover more about ethics and virtues

The Power of Patience: How to Wait Well, Persevere Through Suffering, and Navigate a Fast-Paced World with Dr. Sarah Schnitker

What are you willing to wait for? What are you willing to suffer for? Research psychologist Sarah Schnitker (Baylor University) has done groundbreaking work in the science of patience. By exploring the ways to become more patient with others and ourselves—and discovering the role of this timeless virtue in a flourishing life—she offers us a freeing and stabilizing approach to thinking about goals, perseverance, and navigating our fast-paced world.

Conversing About Patience

The Thrive Center for Human Development and FULLER Studio present Patience, a five-video series that will change the way you think about patience. Psychologists, Benjamin Houltberg and Sarah Schnitker lead a table discussion with Rabbi Sherre Hirsh, Tasneem Noor, and Harlan Redmond to share their thoughts on the meaning of patience within different cultural contexts, faith traditions, and individuals.     Working with Faith Traditions How do different faith traditions think about the practice of patience? Our moderators join Rabbi Sherre Hirsch, Tasneem Noor, and Harlan Redmond to reflect on the role of patience within their own faith, the patience of God, and wisdom from the Quran.     Each Other Can patience positively transform our relationships with others? Our thought leaders examine how patience can lead to better relationships through listening and understanding each other’s stories.     Self-Care Our panel of experts continue their discussion on…

The Practice of the Rule of Life

If there are ways we would like to more fully live into certain virtues, one way to do so is by using the Rule of Life to help us establish new automatic life rhythms.

Overcoming the Sunday Scaries

Learning how what you value shapes your week.

Adolescents and Spirituality: Do Mountaintop Spiritual Experiences Really Make a Difference?

A Thrive Scholars Fellow shares transcendent experiences along with caring adults can stimulate spirituality and virtue development in youth.

The Balm of Being Loved and Held

How does love contributing to thriving? The practice of the 5 B's of love is explained here.

Deep Fulfillment Through the Practice of Joy

Joy is more than an emotion. Rebecca Baer reflects on true joy as being rooted in love, sharing a mindfulness practice.

Cultivating Our Capacity for Joy

How can we cultivate our joy “muscles?” Pamela Ebstyne King, executive director at the Thrive Center, speaks on what is required for our joy training and the benefits of joy at the 2018 Future of Joy Conference, hosted by the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. Author’s Note This talk was given at the Yale Center for Faith and Culture.

Gratitude and Thriving

Summary In response to professor of psychology at University of California, Davis, Robert Emmons on gratitude to God, Pamela Ebstyne King explains how gratitude can both guide us and propel us toward thriving and the good life.   Author’s Note This talk was given at the 2022 Integration Symposium and was originally published on FULLER Studio.

Depressed healthcare worker

Helping Our Healthcare Workers: A Primer to Moral Injury

Dr. Stephanie Trudeau shifts the conversation from burnout to moral injury, presenting ways we can help those experiencing moral injury.

People holding hands

Moral Elevation (Part 2): Practices for Elevating Ourselves and Our World

Postdoctoral Researcher, Dr. Susan Mangan provides research-based activities to help us experience the positive emotion of elevation.

Person jumping over the hill

Moral Elevation (Part 1): The Snowball Effect of Small Inspirations

Dr. Susan Mangan explains the role and benefits of moral elevation in inspiring us to help our communities.

The Wows and Woes of Graduation: Traversing Transition with Hope

Dr. Pamela King reflects on her hopes for her son as he graduates high school and her new role as a partner in this next phase of their lives.

Empowering Youth to Thrive With, Through, and By Faith

Dr. Meredith Hope discusses the role of religion in youth thriving and ways caring adults can help enable spirituality in adolescence.

Mother and daughter painting a cactus

The Real Reason Your Teen is Impatient (and How You Can Help)

Leanne Bishara shares 4 research-backed ways parents and teens can face difficulties with patience.

Aspire to Inspire: Learning the Mamba Mentality for Every Day Greatness

Dr. Stephanie Trudeau breaks down the Mamba Mentality framework and offers tips for how to integrate it into our own lives.

on-the-road-to-joy

The Anchoring Power of Joy for Teens

How can caring adults equip youth for a journey of long-lasting joy? Pamela King highlights the 3 essentials needed.

nurturing-joy-in-youth-pt2

Helping Youth Rediscover Joy (Part 2): Vocation and Spirituality

Joy serves a guide to what matters most to us. Discover how joy can be nurtured spiritually and vocationally in youth.

Helping Youth Rediscover Joy (Part 1): Body Senses and Connection

Joy is a powerful virtue that can improve our wellbeing. Learn how you can nurture joy in youth through their body senses and relationships.

Anchored in Hope

Summary Pamela Ebstyne King responds to Cameron Lee, Professor of Marriage and Family Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary, on hope and humility as clinical virtues, reflecting on telos, hope as an orientation, and the importance of having an eschatological anchor in a fragmented society.   Author’s Note This talk was given at the 2018 Integration Symposium and was originally published on FULLER Studio.  …

Joy vs Happiness

Summary Executive director of the Thrive Center, Pamela Ebstyne King explains the key differences between happiness and joy, pointing to purpose as the key to discovering true joy in this interview. Author’s Note This interview was originally published on Yale Youth Ministry Institute.   About the Author Pamela Ebstyne King Pamela Ebstyne King is the executive director of the Thrive Center and serves as the Peter L. Benson Professor of Applied Developmental Science at Fuller Theological Seminary. Her primary academic interests are applied research at the intersection of human thriving and spiritual development. Dr. King’s work combines theology, empirical research, and community engagement to further understand what contexts and settings enable all people to thrive.  …

24 Content Resources

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Theological Perspectives on Beliefs and Communities of Practice

Book: The Routledge International Handbook of Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Character Development, Volume I Conceptualizing and Defining Character Chapter 18 (34 pages) Theological Perspectives on Beliefs and Communities of Practice Virtue Systems as an Integrative Approach for Psychologists   Abstract In order to offer a theological perspective of virtue development, we treat virtues as habitus, moral habits that are cultivated in local communities with transcendent belief narratives. Virtues are dependent on traditions to inform their purpose or telos and to give definition to the good life. Although psychology offers a conceptualization of virtues focused on the self-system—including characteristic adaptations and transcendent narrative identity—psychology is less clear on how virtues are shaped and informed by the beliefs and practices of their contextualized communities. An exploration of specific features of theological systems offers insight into virtue-enriching ecologies. Informed by Relational Developmental Systems metatheory, we propose a Virtues…

The Joyride Project

This project seeks to integrate the theological and psychological perspectives of joy and flourishing.

Religion as Fertile Ground

Abstract An extensive body of research points toward spirituality and religiousness as resources for promoting human thriving. People with strong connections to the transcendent and religious meaning in life often view morals and values as central to their self-concepts. Although moral identity theory and contemporary views of virtue development emphasize the importance of narrative identity for habituated moral action, the two are often discussed in isolation of each other. In this chapter, the authors highlight how their commonality is particularly evident when examining the potential of religion to provide a transcendent self-narrative that leads to virtue formation and moral action within social contexts. This chapter describes how young people integrate religion and morality in their own lives, and it provides a broad overview of research linking religion to moral and virtue development through an ideological, social, and transcendent context.

Shades of Gratitude

Our team seeks to test and develop a theoretical framework to help guide future research on gratitude.

Shades of Gratitude: Exploring Varieties of Transcendent Beliefs and Experience

Citation King, P. E., Baer, R. A., Noe, S. A., Trudeau, S., Mangan, S. A., & Constable, S. R. (2022). Shades of Gratitude: Exploring Varieties of Transcendent Beliefs and Experience. Religions, 13(11), 1091. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13111091 Abstract The study of gratitude has expanded beyond interpersonal gratitude and considers how people respond to gifts that are not caused by human agency. Given the discord between the prominent understanding of gratitude requiring the appropriate recognition of a gift to a giver and the increasing divergence of transcendent belief systems that do not acknowledge a transcendent or cosmic giver, we explored how people with different worldviews viewed and experienced gratitude. Transcendence does not hinge on metaphysical beliefs, but it can be experienced phenomenologically and subjectively. We conducted a case-study narrative analysis (N = 6) that represents participants from three different categories of belief systems: theistic, non-theistic but spiritual, and other. Our findings demonstrate how people…

Joy Distinguished: Teleological Perspectives of Joy as a Virtue.

Citation King, P. E. (2020). Joy Distinguished: Teleological Perspectives of Joy as a Virtue. Journal of Positive Psychology, 15(1), 33-39. Abstract The most specific psychological literature associates joy with goodness; however, psychological science has no clear means to distinguish one good thing from another or to decipher the degree of goodness required to designate joy beyond subjective or conventional opinion. In order to provide a framework for a science of joy that identifies both the psychological processes that comprise joy and a means of understanding and operationalizing goodness, I conceptualize joy as a virtue of knowing, feeling, and doing what matters most and propose a teleological framework to conceptualize goodness. Such a multidimensional understanding of joy informed by characteristic adaptations given meaning by a transcendent narrative identity and a developmental, contextual telos of the reciprocating self sheds light on the potential power of joy as a psychological phenomenon favorable for…

Integration as Integrity: Christian Therapist as Peacemaker

Citation King, P. E. (2020). Anchored in hope. In C. Lee (Ed.) Integration as Integrity: Christian Therapist as Peacemaker. Wipf and Stock Publishers. Abstract What is “integration”? Christians serving in the psychological professions have long debated the proper way to understand the relationship between “psychology” on the one hand, and “theology” or “Christianity” or “the Christian faith” on the other. This book argues for understanding integration as a matter of personal integrity: it’s not about bridging or blending academic disciplines, but about having a coherent vocational identity. What narrative will hold together both our core identity as Christians and our developing identity as clinicians? Peacemaking is proposed as the central motif, based on the Beatitudes of Jesus. Christian therapists who understand themselves as peacemakers will in turn cultivate the clinical virtues of hope, humility, compassion, and Sabbath rest. Copyright Year: 2024 Holder: Wipf and Stock Publishers DOI: https://wipfandstock.com/9781532686689/integration-as-integrity/…

Joy Guide for Youth Ministry book cover

Joy: A Guide for Youth Ministry

Citation King, P. E. & Argue, S. (2020). #joyonpurpose: Finding joy on purpose. (Chapter and curriculum guide.) In D. White and S. Farmer (Eds). Joy: a Guide to Youth Ministry. Nashville: General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church. Abstract Published in cooperation with Yale University and taking cues from theologians such as Miroslav Volf and recent reflections on joy as the crown of the good life, this ecumenical group of contributors insists that reclaiming joy for youth ministry is crucial in light of modern secularism, which has eviscerated the world of such things as mystery, wonder, grace, and transcendence. The modern world urges us to work and consume compulsively; to value its creatures only for their use or to serve our egos. While consumption sometimes yields momentary fun or happiness, only rarely does it yield joy. This book contrarily asserts that to reclaim joy is…

Religious groups and institutions as a context for moral development: Religion as fertile ground.

Citation King, P. E., Schnitker, S. A., & Houltberg, B. (2020). Religious groups and institutions as a context for moral development: Religion as fertile ground. Handbook of Moral Development (ed. L. Jensen). New York: Oxford University Press, 592-612. Abstract An extensive body of research points toward spirituality and religiousness as resources for promoting human thriving. People with strong connections to the transcendent and religious meaning in life often view morals and values as central to their self-concepts. Although moral identity theory and contemporary views of virtue development emphasize the importance of narrative identity for habituated moral action, the two are often discussed in isolation of each other. In this chapter, the authors highlight how their commonality is particularly evident when examining the potential of religion to provide a transcendent self-narrative that leads to virtue formation and moral action within social contexts. This chapter describes how young people integrate religion and…

Religion, Spirituality, and Thriving: Transcendent Narrative, Virtue, and Lived Purpose.

Citation Schnitker, S. A., King, P. E., & Houltberg, B. (2019). Religion, Spirituality, and Thriving: Transcendent Narrative, Virtue, and Lived Purpose. In Hardy, S. & King, P. E. (eds.). Special section: Processes of religious and spiritual influence in adolescence, Journal of Research on Adolescence, 29(2), 276-290. Abstract A theory is proposed to explain how religion/spirituality (R/S) is related to positive youth development and thriving. The concept of telos is employed to define thriving as continued growth through strength-based living that leads to contributing to one’s communities and living out one’s ethical ideals. Virtue development is proposed as a primary process by which R/S promotes thriving. Virtues are defined as hybrid personality units emerging when characteristic adaptations are given meaning by a transcendent narrative identity. R/S contributes to virtue formation through the ideological, social, and transcendent contexts embedded within religion by providing opportunities to grow both the characteristic adaptations and transcendent…

The Good Physician Project

Longitudinal study by Sarah Schnitker to explore spirituality and virtue formation in physicians. An Exploration of the Role of Religion and Spirituality on Virtue Formation in Physicians.

Love Thy Neighbor Project

Sarah Schnitker examines the connection between intercessory prayer and generosity with student researchers. Examining the Effects of Moral Intuitions and Intercessory Prayer on Generous Behavior.

Virtue Interventions in Adolescent Athletes

Sarah Schnitker and Ben Houltberg examine the contexts in which teen athletes develop character strengths.

The Science of Intellectual Humility

Thrive scholars measure 3 dimensions of intellectual humility for human thriving.

Goal Sanctification & Prayer on Virtues

Sarah Schnitker and student researchers study the impact of goal sanctification on gratitude, generosity, and thrift.

Spiritual Strivings, Goal Satisfaction, Virtue, and Well-Being

Does goal satisfaction increase goal achievement? Sarah Schnitker examines personality dynamics.

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The Practice of the Rule of Life

If there are ways we would like to more fully live into certain virtues, one way to do so is by using the Rule of Life to help us establish new automatic life rhythms.

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Vocation & Purpose

Identity & Narrative

Relationships & Community

Habits & Rhythms

Transcendence & Spirituality

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