A firefighter who, despite the immense fear, plunges into an inferno to rescue a baby on the second floor. An athlete who remembers her very first gymnastics coach during her award speech. A business man who admits to his boss that the deal failed because he forgot their projected profit numbers instead of blaming his intern.
These individuals show virtue. The skill of having excellence in character. The world would certainly be a better place if we all pursued the life of virtue a bit more.
Yes, I’m talking to you.
And I’m talking to me. To everyone that has hastily typed a nasty comment in response to something they disagreed with. Or even if you withhold commenting, but feel a burning in your body cavity that can only be described as being triggered.
I want to suggest that we can practice not being triggered. We can do this through the intellectual virtues.
Just think of any old virtue, like the ones alluded to above – courage, humility, honesty – and consider the “intellectual” version of each of them.
Be courageous. Change your mind when adequate evidence has been shown to you – don’t white knuckle your old beliefs if you really think they are no good. There can sometimes be severe consequences for changing your beliefs depending on what community you find yourself in. Courage often demands change despite the consequences.
Be humble. Have a teachable spirit. You are fallible – you could be wrong. We can learn from each other, and we don’t need to posture ourselves as being the know-it-all. It will often make you insufferable to others and you’ll miss out on the joy of genuine dialogue where both can emerge as learners and closer to truth.
Be honest. Don’t pretend to have the answers when you don’t. And don’t pretend to not have the answers when you do! Being honest shows that you care most about the truth. It doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk in your honesty – we can still practice tact. But when people offer a good point/argument, it is okay to honestly admit that something is good. It speaks nothing of your value as a person to admit that you’ve been wrong or that someone else had a good idea.
These are just three. There are a bunch more.
I’m still working on it for sure. Humility can be a tough one for me and also poise.
What the heck is intellectual poise? “You sound pretty not-humble just saying the word ‘poise’!”
Join the conversation to find out!