Throughout our childhood we are taught what’s good and what’s bad, or at least we’re taught what our parents teach us is good or bad… what behavior is acceptable or not. We get punished for everything we do outside of the rules they put in place for us. Those rules and behaviors become the foundation for us as we grow, but we adjust them based on our own life experience and the things we learn beyond what our parents taught us. All of that combined forms our values and to what extent we embrace those virtues. It may be hard to understand, but there IS such a thing as “too virtuous.” Let’s take a look at a few virtues and the extremes that can exist for them and hopefully we can understand how those extremes are bad, either way.
Integrity is a virtue I consider on a regular basis. As a law enforcement professional for four decades, and now having been a writer, editor and editorial director for two decades, I’ve always considered integrity to be inviolate. Mine has never been for sale or trade. That said, I’ve never felt overly guilty about exceeding the speed limit or slowing down for a stop sign as compared to fully stopping. For integrity, on one end of the extreme is corruption – a complete lack of integrity. At the other end is legalism where a person obeys every law and rule without exception. That’s not a way to live either. A balance in the middle seems appropriate with a focus on personal integrity avoiding the corrupt end.
Generally, we’re all taught to give respect to those who earn it and to demand it when our behavior justifies it. It’s important to understand there’s a difference between respect and courtesy. Common courtesy should be exactly that – common, every day. Respect is different and, as pointed out, must be earned. On one end of the spectrum for not enough respect is disregard – complete and utter disregard. At the other end of too much respect is an unhealthy view of the target of that excess respect. It borders on worship and is obviously unhealthy. That middle balance is the perfect place to “hang out.”
None of us has much use for unbridled arrogance but there’s also a big problem having so much humility you allow yourself to be degraded. A healthy amount of humility allows for a person to balance being proud versus being humble, limiting arrogance but not overly embracing a lowered sense of value. Is “humble pride” an understandable phrase?
We all know a few folks who seem to spend every waking minute working, whether it’s at their job or toward a goal. They just always work. They rarely, if ever, take time off and never have any fun. What is their overall quality of life going to be? On the other hand, we also all know people who seem to embody the word “lazy,” never accomplishing anything and seemingly perfectly okay with it. On the one end is being a workaholic and the other slothfulness. It should go without saying that either extreme isn’t healthy for a quality life. The balance has to be found and embraced. Work as necessary to pay your bills but take enough time off and use it fruitfully so you aren’t simply working your life away.
Saved for last but probably one of the most important. An extreme lack of courage is cowardice while non-judicious courage can be considered foolhardy. There are times when the slide has to be moved back and forth; circumstances wherein courage should be measured, and an appropriate amount applied to the given situation. Cowardice is never good but being foolishly courageous without good cause or need is just as wrong. It takes life experience and a full understanding of any situation to act with the right about of courage.
There are other virtues that should be considered and measured but those were the important ones that needed to be discussed. Thoughts?