The Virtue Continuum

Frederick Dodson

Frederick Dodson

We all know the bad stuff – corruption, cowardice, selfishness; but there is also too much of the good stuff. That’s the lesson of the chart below (which I found randomly browsing, don’t know who made it). The Balance point between too little and too much virtue is your center of power.

For example, Humility. There is a lot of power in humility, paradoxically. The humble person is aware that all things come and go, get born and fade away, and nothing is ever guaranteed. The humble person has seen how pride comes before the fall. But the other side is having so much humility that it turns into self-neglect. I know plenty of so-called “spiritual” people who put up with degrading work because they are “too humble” to ask money. To me, though, that’s not humility, it’s lack-of-confidence masking as humility. A read an article the other day. A local Church was putting up with a strongly smelly person who refuses to shower or bathe. They did so, out of “compassion”. But is that really “compassion”, or is it negligence?

Discernment is another favorite. It’s one of the secret ingredients of my writing. Discernment does not see things as completely good or completely bad, but on a detailed spectrum. But when the mind becomes too discerning it turns judgmental, often with age. Because of lifelong experience, Grandpa sees 30 types of snow and condemns the child to who it’s all just snow. But the child isn’t wrong. It’s just, that the child doesn’t place that much importance into discerning 30 types of snow. The best thing the Grandpa can do, therefore, is relax and love the child regardless. Without compassion, having great knowledge can become toxic. But with compassion, knowledge and discernment are superpowers.

Workaholism passed off as “diligence” is also a popular one. The person cares of nothing except work – all day, every day. When called out, he says “I’m just being diligent. I want to get the job done properly”. It’s good to be diligent. I don’t like apathetic people, I don’t like living off other peoples’ money and I don’t like resting on past success. But there is a fine line between diligence and obsession. That’s why we have weekends. On weekends, we let it all go, break our routine and gain perspective. Thus, when we return to work, the quality of our work has improved.

Respect is the smaller sister of Appreciation. The parents of both is Love. It’s one of the most powerful forces in the Universe. When does it turn into idolatry?  A family has pictures of the ruling politician hanging in every room of their house. They say “we are just paying our due respect”. Really? What about the shrine they built to him in the corner of the living room. Is that still “just respect”?

Looking at these imbalances more closely, we almost always find that if people are too excessive with one side, they also have issues with the other side.

A person obsessed with legalism, probably got hurt by corruption, suppressed the emotion and is now overprotective. Or he was corrupt and is trying to compensate with excessive “integrity”.

A person who is excessively strict about sex, is potentially covering up desires they are ashamed of in the subconscious. If they didn’t feel the danger of relapsing, they wouldn’t have to be that strict about it.

People who risk life and limb recklessly are not “courageous”, they are running away from a real-life situation that calls for real courage. The reckless behavior is an escape from confronting the daily-life issue.

On the flip-side, people who lack virtue, often pose as victims of the other extreme. The slothful points fingers at the workaholic. The licentious points fingers at the strict, the corrupt mock the excessively tight, the disrespectful make fun of idolaters. “What, you call me lazy? I’m not lazy. Look at mom. She worked all the time and fell over dead at a young age. I don’t want to end up like that!”. Or, you’ll hear the workaholic say: “Workaholic? Nah. I don’t want to end up like him. He didn’t work and look what’s become of him now! Homeless!” Of course these are nothing but justifications for imbalanced behavior.

Where you find one extreme, you usually find the opposite, either in the same person or in someone close to them. That’s the lesson of this article. Don’t waste your energy advertising how good you are, it means you have doubts. Everything you keep affirming, you have doubts. Otherwise you wouldn’t keep having to affirm it, right? Also, waste no energy trying to get others to be good or demanding it from those close to you. If you’re seeing too often errors in others, it’s a sign that you need to improve yourself. The definition of Equilibrium is “a state in which opposing forces or influences are balanced”. The dictionary says that “a calm state of mind” is a synonym. I’ll add Flow as another synonym. Calm, Equilibrium and Flow, the three go together.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Share on whatsapp
Share on telegram