Yesterday, we discussed the origin of the virtues on our list. The origin of the virtue is crucial, because some virtues have direct spiritual value and can thereby impact our experience of satisfaction exponentially and, I dared argue, supernaturally. We also examined the omnipotent virtue of Wisdom, which rules supreme over all the others.
The Flip Side
Honestly, I don’t know that anyone could take issue with the virtues on our list as ideals. I mean, unless someone could convincingly argue to me that Honesty, as a virtue, is more trouble than it’s worth, or that Bravery, as a virtue, is actually a bad thing. (I do not shy away from making Game Show “ding ding ding” sounds when I score a point on these kinds of debates, be forewarned.)
That said, wisdom must accompany all virtue. Without wisdom, at its best virtue is an empty sail, at its worst, it becomes a dangerous weapon. Virtue without wisdom is what I like to call the Flip Side.
In our discussion I am going to shine a spotlight on what a virtue, without the wisdom to accompany it, could lead to. For example: Patriotism is a virtue which signals a love of one’s country or cultural identity. However, the Flip Side would be Chauvinism, which says “my identity is better than every other identity”, or Fanaticism, “we must destroy or reform those who are not of our identity.”
Each virtue has an Orientation, and in many cases, it has more than one Orientation: A virtue can be oriented towards Self, People, Things, Circumstances or Ideas.
For example, the virtue of Orderliness is oriented towards Things (keeping our possessions tidy). It could be argued, in certain situations, that it is also oriented towards Ideas (as in when we need to get our thoughts in order.) On the other hand, the virtue of Teamwork is always going to be oriented towards People.
Identifying the Orientation of a virtue helps us see which parts of our life is touched by a virtue, and more often than not, helps us recognize where we most need to grow.
I know for a fact that in any virtue that has to do with other people, I struggle. These People-Oriented virtues are ones where I need to make a concerted effort, often with specific short-term goals in order to make progress.
Take a look at those Orientations again: Self, People, Things, Circumstances or Ideas. Just off the top of your head–where would you say you struggle the most?
Tomorrow, we will continue looking at the facets of a virtue, including the subtle difference between a thought and an attitude, as well as how to define whether a virtue is active, passive, or impulsive. There will be a practical application to all of this heavily-detailed stuff, I promise. The pay-off is just a few days away!