Short Descriptions of Character Strengths and Virtues

The VIA Classification of Character Strengths: Six Virtues and 24 Character Strengths

Wisdom and Knowledge – cognitive strengths that entail acquiring and using knowledge. 

{Magician energies.}

The owl symbolizes wisdom and knowledge. They are calm and observant, have a good overview of what is happening around them, and can quickly zero in on things of interest to them. Owls are often used to represent learning. Because this creature lives in the dark, it can also represent mystery. Other meanings of this nocturnal animal are rebirth, death, change, and transformation.


Creativity, originality, ingenuity: My ability to think of new ways to do things is crucial to who I am. I am never content with doing something conventional if a better way is possible. Metaphor: Wearing different-colored glasses.


Curiosity, interest, novelty-seeking, openness to experience: I am curious about everything. I always ask questions, and I find all subjects and topics fascinating. I like exploration and discovery. Metaphor: Variety is the spice of life.


Judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness: Thinking things through and examining them from all sides are important aspects of who I am. I do not jump to conclusions and rely only on solid evidence to make my decision. Metaphor: “The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” Henri Bergson.


Love of Learning: I love learning new things, whether in a class or on my own. I have always loved school, reading, and museums – anywhere and everywhere, there is an opportunity to learn. Metaphor: There is no such thing as failure. There is only learning.


Perspective, wisdom: Although I may not think of myself as wise, my friends hold this view of me. They value my perspective on matters and turn to me for advice. I have a way of looking at the world that makes sense to others and myself. Metaphor: Taking a hot-air balloon ride to see the whole forest instead of the individual trees.


Courage – emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of external or internal opposition. 

{Maintaining willpower in pursuit of a mission. Warrior energies.}

The wolf symbolizes courage, loyalty, protection, and guardship. In addition, this animal is considered friendly, sociable, and family-oriented; it can represent playfulness, family, and sociability. As a predator, wolfs can also symbolize power and strength. Other meanings associated with wolfs are freedom, instinct, and intelligence.


Bravery and valor: I am a courageous person who does not shrink from threats, challenges, difficulties, or pain. I speak up for what is right, even if there is opposition. I act on my convictions. Metaphor: True grit.


Perseverance, persistence, industriousness: No matter the project, I “get it out the door” quickly. I am focused when I work and take satisfaction in completing tasks. Metaphor: As industrious as an ant.


Honesty, authenticity, integrity: I am honest, speaking the truth, and living my life genuinely and authentically. I am down to earth and a “real” person without pretense. Metaphor: I do what I say and say what I do. {May also be considered Royal energy.}


Zest, vitality, enthusiasm, vigor, energy: Regardless of what I do, I approach it with excitement and energy. I never do anything halfway or halfheartedly. For me, life is an adventure. Metaphor: Energizer bunny. {May also be considered Lover energy.}


Humanity – interpersonal strengths that involve tending to and befriending others. 

{Royal energies.}

The human hand is a symbol of humanity, a universal tool, and a symbol of communication. Humanity refers to all human life on the planet and the specific characteristics that define what it is to be a human being. Humanity also refers to certain personality traits, for example, those that amplify the qualities or values considered essential to the human experience, such as kindness and generosity.


Love, capacity to love and be loved {Care would be a Royal energy; Intimacy would be Lover energy.}: I value close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing and caring are reciprocated. The people I feel most close to also feel close to me. Metaphor: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery.


Kindness, generosity, nurturance, care, compassion, selfless love, “niceness”: I am kind and generous to others and never too busy to do a favor. I enjoy doing good deeds for others, even if I do not know them well. Metaphor: “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” Buddha.


Social intelligence, emotional intelligence, personal intelligence: I am aware of the motives and feelings of other people. I know what to do to fit in different social situations and what to do to put others at ease. Metaphor: An interpersonal bat that uses sound waves as a radar system.


Justice – civic strengths that underlie healthy community life and support the best possible social interaction among a group. 

{Royal and Warrior energies.}

A bee is a symbol of justice and symbolizes teamwork and leadership. Also, they symbolize sexuality and fertility because they pollinate flowers in ancient Egyptian mythology, a symbol of power and royalty. Bees may also represent productivity due to their hardworking nature.


Teamwork, citizenship, social responsibility, loyalty: I excel as a group member. I am a loyal and dedicated teammate. I always do my share and work hard for my group’s success. Metaphor: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.


Fairness: Treating all people fairly is one of my abiding principles. I do not let my personal feelings bias my decisions about other people. I give everyone a chance. Metaphor: Absolute truth is a myth. Every truth is shaped by context.


Leadership: I excel at leadership tasks: encouraging a group to get things done and preserving harmony by making everyone feel included. I do a good job organizing activities and seeing that they happen. Metaphor: Orchestra conductor.


Temperance – strengths that protect against excess. 

{Royal energies.}

A ram is a symbol of temperance and balance. In their wild habitat, marked by sharp cliffs, they manage to find this balance cautiously, prudently, and with great care. It symbolizes leadership because of its courage to face danger and determination and confidence because of its will to climb dangerous mountains. Some cultures use a ram as a sacrificial offering. It can also represent sacrifice, purity, and holiness.


Forgiveness, mercy: I forgive those who have done me wrong. I always give people a second chance. My guiding principle is mercy and not revenge. Metaphor: Knowing how to move on.


Humility, modesty: I do not seek the spotlight, preferring to let my accomplishments speak for themselves. I do not regard myself as special; others recognize and value my modesty. Metaphor: Nelson Mandela.


Prudence: I am careful, and my choices are consistently prudent. I do not say or do things that I might later regret. Metaphor: A quiet force.


Self-regulation, self-control: I self-consciously regulate what I feel and do. I am a disciplined person. I am in control of my appetites and my emotions, not vice versa. Metaphor: Be the captain of your ship. {May also be considered Warrior energy.}


Transcendence – strengths that forge connections to the universe (or larger whole) and provide meaning. 

{Some are Lover energies: Appreciation of Beauty, Gratitude, and Humor; and some are Royal energies: Hope and Spirituality.}

A unicorn is a symbol of transcendence. A unicorn can symbolize innocence, virginity, purity, and grace. It also represents positivity, happiness, prosperity, and long life. As a mythic creature, it can also symbolize mystery, magic, and enchantment. Other meanings associated with a unicorn are romance, hope, joy, and healing.


Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence, awe, wonder, elevation: I notice and appreciate beauty, excellence, and skilled performance in all domains of life, from nature to art to mathematics to science to everyday experience. Metaphor: Beauty and the Beast.


Gratitude: I am aware of the good things that happen to me, and I never take them for granted. My friends and family know that I am grateful because I always take the time to express my thanks. Metaphor: Common courtesy.


Hope, optimism, future-mindedness, and orientation: I expect the best in the future and work to achieve it. The future is something that I can control. Metaphor: Seeing the glass half-full.


Humor, playfulness: I like to laugh and tease. Bringing smiles to other people is vital to me. I see the light side of all situations. Metaphor: “Humor is the healthiest form of rationality.” Jaques Brel.


Spirituality, religiousness, faith, purpose: I have strong and coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe. I know where I fit in the larger scheme. My beliefs shape my actions and are a source of comfort to me.

Spirituality is linked to the intentional development of human strengths and virtues. Metaphor: Lotus flower.