They are the source of a lot of jokes, the seven deadly sins, the seven countering virtues and the seven dwarfs. Bah doooom bah…Take my wife please.
Cruising Facebook and the comment sections following news stories is like watching some social experiment gone terribly wrong. Yeah, I know, just asking for a smack in the face with the insightful commentary of “oh yeah, well I think you’er stoopid” “Oh yeah, your so stewpid you don’t know how to spell ‘your’…”
What I come away with, however, is a sense of how we are quick to judgement but terribly slow to understand. There is also a confusion between understanding why someone did something and excusing the action.
There is no limit, unfortunately, to examples of actions for which no excuse is possible for what was done. If we don’t understand why they did it, however, we will never see the way to help someone else before they cross that line. It is really in our own interest to figure it out.
I also do not think the idea of placing a person into the category of ‘monster’ is a good thing. The simple fact of the matter is these people are human beings, regardless of their actions. They have gone to an extreme, yes, but we are fooling ourselves into thinking no one who is truly human could do that. It is actually missing the point entirely. They are human and that is why we need to understand what little switch turned on or off inside them.
Forgive them? I would like to think that is within our abilities as humans too. If we are capable of such cruelty, surely we are also capable of the same level of kindness.
So, I propose digging up an old concept, the unfashionable idea of virtue. Not that I claim to be an expert on the category – in theory and most especially not practise. Anyway, here’s a quick recap and short definitions of those silly 7 virtues just to get the discussion rolling. Warning, the definitions may not be what you expect but if you take a minute, they make a lot of sense.
Humility: not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.
Chastity: the ability to refrain from being distracted
Diligence: Upholding one’s convictions at all times, especially when no one else is watching.
Temperance: Constant mindfulness of others and one’s surroundings
Charity: To be prompted by consideration of the dignity, quality or need of others. One of my favourite sayings is from the Jewish tradition: If you have a dollar to to donate, use pennies so your hand may develop the habit of giving.
Patience: To resolve conflict peacefully, without resorting to violence.
Kindness: Courtesy towards the earth and it’s inhabitants.