When we are young – good and bad are usually in black and white. However as we grow older we realize that life and values in life are not so straight forward. There are many shades of grey that exist between the good on one side and evil on the other. Oftentimes we have to contend not with just the good and bad but with the good and the good.
We are forced to confront a hierarchy of values of life namely kindness, compassion, honesty, patience, tolerance and humility. How does one decide between two virtues in a situation? We are forced to wrestle between different virtues in a situation. This post looks at typical situations and tries to take a stab at navigating the narrow path between good, better and best…
Honesty is good, Tact is better: While honesty and stating facts as facts makes sense when one is young as we grow older we need to take a smarter approach towards handling different situations. Very often people feel offended when they are told the truth, particularly when they are wrong. They may feel insulted. In these situations we need to be more subtle in telling the truth. We need tact and tell the truth in a more palatable way. So honesty should include a good amount of tact and smarts.
Kindness is good, Indulgence is not: We all know that we have to be kind. So while our innate kindness may want us to part with a few coins to a beggar, it would it make no sense to constant shower the same beggar with a lot of money, assuming that the beggar is not physically handicapped and can earn an honest living. Similarly while we may want to be kind to our child we should not condone the child’s tantrums. Kindness and discipline go hand in hand. Kindness should be accompanied with dollops of good sense.
Humility is good, Servility is bad: Humility is a very misunderstood concept. We generally think humility is the opposite of pride. We think that humility means that we should try to underplay any achievements of ours. We assume incorrectly, that we must never, ever talk about things that we have done. Actually humility means being able to fully understand one’s strengths and weaknesses and having a realistic view vis-à-vis the world. We must realize that while we may be good there are many who are still better. So humility is being realistic about one’s achievements. However, we often confuse humility to being very servile. We think that to be humble means to just listen to everything and everybody. This is completely incorrect. So we need to humble but we should never be servile.
Self-esteem is important, Egoism is bad: Self esteem is extremely important. We need to take pride in our achievements. It is fine to highlight our achievements to others provided we are not arrogant. We should never compromise on our self-esteem. We should never be too egoistic in our own self. Excessive pride can sometimes border on narcissism. We need to have a balanced approach towards our achievements. Our successes should feed out self-pride but never make us excessively proud and arrogant.
While this post looks at different shades of a particular virtue the highest of all virtues is kindness and compassion. It is always more important to be kind than correct.