Gravity means having a sense of the importance of the matter at hand. On one level, this means that one with gravity would keep a serious attitude when the situation calls for it, but on a deeper level it means being observant about when these graver moments come and respecting the feelings and concerns of those around you. This helps you to be better prepared for the consequences of your actions and the events around you, and also helps you be a better help to those around you and earn you more respect from them as well.

According to the Roman Virtues, gravity also refers to taking your responsibilities seriously and being earnest. Most people have a few important responsibilities—even if most of those are only to themselves—and when one doesn't take these responsibilities seriously it drives their lives in a downward spiral and also tends to engender the bitterness of those around you. Being earnest is also related to seriousness. This means that you take the feelings and causes most important to you very seriously and earnestly, and that you are not one that simply brushes them off.

In times past, having a serious personality might have been considered a virtue in and of itself, and this may be what the Romans had in mind. In modern times, however, being serious continually is often viewed as a character defect, and the ability to be silly and goofy at times is a trait that is frequently admired. Even if you are also one who doesn't like being too serious, you will still benefit from having the choice to be serious when you want to. You will also definitely benefit from learning how to be aware when others around you are expecting more gravity from you at a given moment.

I don't think the aim of one seeking this virtue should be focused on being grave, but more on developing self-control. If you are frequently angering friends by joking at the wrong time or joking too much around the wrong people, then you will benefit from practicing gravity and working on being more observant (you might also want to look into "social intelligence" which isn't a Roman Virtue, but a related topic if your problem has more to do with not recognizing social cues).

Like the majority of new character traits, developing gravity requires practice. Here are some activities that might help you get started:


  • Make a Daily record About Other People: Focus on one person that is important to you. How was that person acting on a given day? Was he or she chipper? Gloomy? Distracted? And at what times did this happen? What did you say that he/she liked, didn't like, or seemed disinterested in? Write it down as soon as possible or every night.
  • Match Everyone You Meet: As much as you can, anyway. This is a good activity to do after or during the activity above. Whenever you meet someone, notice their mood and attitude. Instead of trying to bring them to where you are (whether up or down), try to match the way you speak and interact with them along the same energy level as they are at in the moment. This is a good habit in general, although you probably will want to stop doing it continuously after you finish this experiment.
  • Avoid Cheering People Up with Humor: Nothing is wrong with humor, but if you are working on gravity then you might want to avoid cheering with humor as an experiment. Whenever people are down, try a different approach rather than jollying them out of it (if it's not working, by all means you can stop it).
  • Experiment with Being Serious at Official Meetings: If you are having a meeting at work or with some other group of people, then try to be earnest the entire duration of the meeting (this works well for classes if you are a "class clown"). Note how people react differently to you. Ask yourself: when was this more appropriate? When was it less appropriate? After you are finished with the experiment, adjust your behavior according to what you have learned.

Your Record

Whenever you offend someone because of your unsuitable humorous or lighthearted attitude toward an serious subject or just because of their sour mood in general, then mark yourself at "fault" (unless, of course, you are as sure as heck that the person is a loon). If you act inappropriately casual for a serious occasion, then mark yourself at fault. Make some goals based on the list up above. Mark yourself at fault if you fail to participate in the chosen activities or if you don't meet your goals.


It is not so important to be serious as it is to be serious about the important things. The monkey wears an expression of seriousness which would do credit to any college student, but the monkey is serious because he itches.

Robert M. Hutchins, American Educator and Writer

Gravity is only the bark of wisdom's tree but it preserves it.

Confucius, Renown Chinese Philosopher and Teacher

(Just food for thought): "Humor is the only test of gravity, and gravity of humor; for a subject which will not bear raillery is suspicious, and a jest which will not bear serious examination is false wit.

Aristotle, Renown Philosopher of Ancient Greece

Golden Mean

Frivolity, Levity, Silliness
Pomposity, Bombast

Recommended Reading

Respect For Others: The Golden Key To Success — by Kay Saunders

This focuses more on learning to respect others in the workplace, a lot of it includes skills to apply to respecting what others are going through and showing sensitivity (as well as courtesy).

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Enhancing Your Social IQ — by Gregory P. Korgeski

This book from the "Complete Idiot" series introduces the topic to people who are just breaking in to the concept. It contains quizzes to give you a personality profile and advice on how to create and sustain mutually enriching relationships.

General Rules

Practice virtues daily so that they become ‘habits of the heart’.

Don‘t strive for perfection.

Never give up! Remember: even the greats have off days.

Rely on your intuition.

Avoid extremes. Strive to achieve the golden mean between excess and deficiency of a virtue.

Have fun and enjoy the program with humor and optimism.

Taking personal accountability is a beautiful thing because it gives us complete control of our destinies. Heather Schuck