Personal Development

The Delicate Dance of Virtues

I remember being a kid and learning about virtues.  One week, we would learn about courage.  The other, love; then another, about courage.  On and on it went—with one major question, brought up again and again by my friends and I, remaining largely unanswered: what about the relationship between these virtues?

I can’t blame my teachers for not wanting to wade into the muddle that can be the connections between various virtues.  It is already quite complicated to figure out how to demonstrate virtues on their own in many of the delicate situations day-to-day life puts us in.  But even more complicated is figuring out the intricacies of the web that binds these virtues together.

One analogy that has been quite helpful—and has always made me smile—is to think of your behaviour as a plane and the virtues as the panel of what seems like hundreds upon hundreds of switches, lights, and buttons.  Depending on where you want to land your plane, you will adjust your heading using all of these switches, lights, and buttons, constantly monitoring where you are and adjusting as needed.

I feel it’s the same when it comes to virtues.  In a story shared in a post uploaded in September 2008, the plane was bearing on “nice” at the expense of “fairness” which was leading it towards “injustice”.  What was needed to create justice was fairness and courage.  Because being nice alone, as we know, leads to putting ourselves in a situation where we are constantly taken advantage of.

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to demonize people and see them as having no virtues at all.  But I feel that, in some cases, people who do things that do not seem moral are focused on one virtue at the expense of others.  One that comes to mind after today’s rather disastrous trip to the grocery store is efficiency at the expense of courtesy; one woman was efficiently making her way through the store, but she kept running into people, ramming other carts aside, and cutting in front of others.  I have spoken to this woman a number of times, and she is such a lovely person—but clearly, today, she was trying to be efficient at the cost of her other virtues.

The power of bringing yourself into account each and every day, analysing what you have done, and writing it down in a journal seems to be, yet again, the easiest way to learn about this meticulous balancing of virtues.  Because I have a feeling that it only gets more and more complicated…

{ Sahar’s Blog is all about being in a constant state of learning.  So it only made sense for me to go back to all my previous posts and see how my thoughts on certain topics have changed over the last nine years.  In this new, ongoing series of posts, I’ll be rereading some of my older posts and reflecting on the same topic in light of what I’ve learned since then.  It’s going to be very interesting to see how things have changed! }

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3 thoughts on “The Delicate Dance of Virtues

  1. I’m really interested by this. I’m not sure we were ever specifically taught about the term virtues. It was always just a subliminal message in our upbringing in a Christian family.

    As I started reading this I wondered how I would teach my kids but then your plane and buttons analogy made perfect sense. I’m going to teach them that.

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