Virtue is found in moderation

In medio stat virtus (Latin)

Most virtues taken to an extreme can become a vice. For a particular virtue to be beneficial, it needs to be balanced by a different virtue. The Stoic philosophers had a term for this—anacoluthia—the mutual entailment of the virtues; no virtue is a virtue by itself. 

For instance, notice how each of these virtues, if not balanced by another virtue, can be unproductive, but when paired together they create balance.

  • Confidence without humility can lead to egotism and unhealthy self-reliance. Humility without confidence can make you timid.
  • Courage without caution can lead to recklessness. Unbalanced, caution can lead to passivity.   
  • Frugality without generosity can lead to excessive thriftiness and stinginess. Generosity without frugality can lead you to the poor house.
  • Openness can lead to healthy transparency and aid to developing relationships; but it needs to be balanced by discretion.
  • Self-control has its advantages but without some spontaneity you may live a stiff and dull life.

Any strength, out of balance, can become a weakness. For instance, I am fanatical about being on time. Granted, punctuality is a virtue, but my zeal for being on time can consume too much of my attention and may cause me to miss other, equally important issues.  

Philosopher Gregory Bateson expands this thought to include other elements: “There is always an optimal value, beyond which anything is toxic, no matter what: oxygen, sleep, psychotherapy, philosophy.”

Analyze yourself. What are your core strengths? What is the potential downside of each strength? What virtue would balance each of your core strengths? 

So the key is balance; moderation. Extremism and fanaticism excludes alternative ideas or activities and lead to imbalance, intolerance, and narrow-mindedness.

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2 thoughts on “Virtue is found in moderation

  1. Spot on, Don…thank you for reminding us that even our “strengths” can be a liability if taken too far. Blessings, Brian McCoy