Balance in Virtues

This heart is hidden in this illusion knit dishcloth. May we all recognize the heart is all of us.

In most ethics classes and books, Virtues are a big part of the study. I think that most of us, at least in the groups that I’m a part of, agree that too little of virtue can be a bad thing. If you don’t have enough courage, you could be too scared to leave your own house.

But have you considered that too much of a Virtue could also be wrong?  Too much courage can make you fool-hardy, and you may tend to rush into dangerous situations without the proper preparation. Too much hospitality can allow you to invite in a thief, or worse, who steals from you.  Plato spoke of a mid-point between the extremes for each virtue that was the “right” amount.

The balance that makes us good people is spread across all our virtues. We can engage our vision and wisdom to balance out recklessness by helping us to prepare before we act. The right level of compassion can help us help other people without putting ourselves in unnecessary risk – it also helps us figure out what someone actually needs.

I know that I can be very cautious in many areas of social justice, but my compassion helps to give me enough drive and courage to do jail ministry, and help the pagans behind bars to find their spiritual path.  It still scares me each time I go in – and I know that I’m as safe as possible with the guards and chaplains. But that’s one area of balance for me.

No particular balance works across the whole community. It’s up to each of us to figure out the balance for ourselves.  

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