Most Overrated Virtue, revisited

When I published this post the discussion went off on a tangent. I raised a general question, What is the most overrated virtue? I didn’t anticipate that my comment on the narrower issue of introverts and extroverts would provoke a controversy.

The post continues to show up in search queries. And the question I posed continues to interest me.

I just received a late entry from anonymous, and I think it’s a good one:

the most underrated virtue? thats easy, silence. everyone has something to say. whatever happened to just shutting up and listening for a change?

Hmmm. I wonder whether anonymous has read the other posts on this blog. “Everyone has something to say” describes the dynamic pretty well.


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. CyberKitten
    Oct 17, 2005 @ 11:50:00

    I’m torn between:





  2. Q
    Oct 17, 2005 @ 11:55:00

    Meaning what, that those virtues lead to an unhelpful passivity?


  3. CyberKitten
    Oct 17, 2005 @ 12:08:00

    Q said: Meaning what, that those virtues lead to an unhelpful passivity?

    Quite possibly. Though I guess any virtue taken to an extreme can become a vice.

    Patience is OK up to a point and depends greatly on context – for example patiently waiting for a bus or mail delivery to arrive is OK. Generations patiently waiting for justice isn’t.

    Do we accept our lot in life? Up to a point yes. However, do we accept repression? No we don’t (or at least we shouldn’t).

    Thought of another one:

    Obedience. Is that a virtue? If it is I’m not sure it should be… Look where that can lead… Dark places indeed…..

    Are virtues only virtuous in the right context….?


  4. Aginoth
    Oct 17, 2005 @ 14:33:00

    underrated virtue #324 Puncuality

    I detest lateness, it’s rude and disrespectful, there is no such ting as fasionably late there is just late and rude.

    If I have a meeting I expect people to be on time, unless there is a damned good reason. Not that I am not unreasonable, if you are going to be late and you let me know I’ll be happy, and in todays society full of mobile phones etc there is no reason not to call ahead.

    Which kind of brings me to the next under-rated virtue, plain old fashioned good manners; please, thank you, opening doors, the whole she-bang. It’s the oil that keeps society running freely.


  5. Aginoth
    Oct 17, 2005 @ 14:34:00

    Oh and yes I know the thread is over-rated virtues…but those popped into my head :o)


  6. Mrs.Aginoth
    Oct 17, 2005 @ 15:24:00

    Are you still looking at the classical virtues, cos to be honest they’re all over-rated, but I reckon “meekness” must be the least useful to anyone in real life today. I mean, in what way can it be good to be meek?

    As for modern virtues, I think I’ll have to upset you Q & plump for “religious observance”. I’m sure that if there was less organised religion in the world, it would be a much nicer place.


  7. Q
    Oct 17, 2005 @ 16:32:00

    • Cyberkitten:
    I think the great value of patience is in not giving up. I suppose we typically characterize that as persistence, but I think patience is a necessary component of it.

    No, people should not wait passively for justice. But, provided that they work hard at achieving it, there is also virtue in patience. Justice really amounts to a re-ordering of society, and you’ll only achieve that over generations.

    • Aginoth:
    The original post invited people to comment either way — on an overrated or an underrated virtue.

    You remind me of an old-fashioned virtue I often comment on: being considerate of others. Mostly I am reacting to inconsiderate people: drivers who don’t signal when they make lane changes; people who block sidewalks, halls, or doorways; basically the mindset that forgets there are other people in the world and they deserve to be taken into account.

    • Mrs. Aginoth:
    I’m not offended by the bit about organized religion. I attend church once or twice per month, but my faith is mostly practised in private.

    It’s the other comment that tweaks me: in what way can it be good to be meek?

    It’s true, I know, that one does not “get ahead” by being meek. But I dislike aggressive, self-serving, inconsiderate people.

    It’s probably fair to describe me as “meek” insofar as I am prepared to defer to the wishes of others in many situations.

    I try not to fall into the trap of allowing others to take advantage of me. I don’t want to be anyone’s doormat, though I’ve had some experience in that role.

    But I do not assume that I have a right to set my needs above anyone else’s. I believe in working collaboratively, and seeking to achieve a win-win result, even where such an outcome does not initially appear to be possible.

    Total passivity, no. Blind obedience, no. But I think meekness can be a more robust quality than that — a characteristic of people who work to prevent or resolve conflicts and increase equity — in which case it is an underrated virtue rather than an overrated one.

    It’s a virtue that serves others better than it serves oneself. Which makes it another of those old fashioned virtues Aginoth was lauding.


  8. Mrs.Aginoth
    Oct 17, 2005 @ 17:11:00

    I guess it depends on your definition of “meek”. I would say you were describing “humility” or maybe “tolerance”, or even “self-sacrifice”. meekness implies a virtue of never persuing your own goals due to fear they will not come to fruition. Not a virtue in my book.


  9. CyberKitten
    Oct 17, 2005 @ 17:18:00

    Q said: I think the great value of patience is in not giving up. I suppose we typically characterize that as persistence, but I think patience is a necessary component of it.

    I think I’d go with persistence rather than patience. To me patience seems far too passive, while persistence seems to be more active in a ‘never give in, never surrender’ kind of way.

    Much more my kind of thing…


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