“Hart kann die Tugend sein, doch grausam nie, / unmenschlich nie—Virtue may be stern, though never cruel, never inhuman.” – Schiller, James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations, 1899
The notion that virtuousness is a weak-kneed approach to living and that the only form of being good is being nice is a common misconception which blunts much of the potential influence of virtue in the world. Allow me to explain.
Virtuous living is the natural result of living steadfastly under the commandment of love and within the framework of truth. Love is the irresistible force and truth, the immovable object. Neither are weak in any of their forms. In fact, love is almighty and truth is adamantine. A man or woman, therefore, who upholds love’s will and conforms to truth in all matters is sure to lead a truly significant and influential life.
Hatred and lies are the evidence of the absence of love and truth. Wherever a noble heart bears all that is heaven-sent, the light will shine and pressure will come to bear on those areas in which love and truth are underrepresented. When that light is revealed, it may come across as being cruel, harsh or inhumane, but in reality love and truth are always reasonable, even when they are conveyed sternly out of necessity.
Think of a parent taking a child to task for wandering out into the road without looking. Such correction must be issued sternly to make the point, but it can still be grounded in love, no matter how strongly it must be offered. Love can come dressed as chastening or rebuke; the important thing is that it be met with zealous repentance – a genuine change of heart followed by a firm change of direction – rather than resistance or outright rejection.
Virtue’s influence is often blunted by a stubborn refusal to make the changes its presence demands, though people generally prefer letting themselves off on a technicality, rather than defying the dicta of love and truth outright. They dismiss sound, logical, rational help by convincing themselves that the aid was offered without sufficient sugar-coating. Virtue does not always come dipped in chocolate and correction will not always be honeyed, perfumed and melodious, but bearing the discomfiture of accommodating love and truth in the short run is always preferable to living in the shadowy, dangerous and uncertain world which thrives in the absence of virtue.
4 thoughts on “Stern Virtue”
There have been eras in human history where sternness was considered a virtue of itself, and that no doubt left a bad taste – “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” Harshness of itself does not produce a virtuous child, except to the degree that the child is terrified to contravene the mores of the parent. Still, there are times when an unyielding stance is absolutely necessary, and not at all in opposition to the attitude of love.
The parent or the leader who is able to be balanced in the expression of love and truth will be heeded and appreciated by those in whom there is resonance with Reality. Others will always find a way to hide, to rebel or to compromise their integrity on the basis of loopholes, as you say. Things do sort themselves out on this basis.
Thank you for outlining the necessity of stern virtue when required which is really to disrupt the patterns of inertia that have been preventing the greater light to manifest through us. It is interesting to consider how it relates to myself in recognizing those patterns and issuing a strong and stern command to my mind and heart when something is seen that is not of true life benefit. Application within myself I realize sets the stage for stern virtue to be applied to my world not by attack rather being ready to apply when those I love are wandering out into or have been out on a dangerous street. Stern virtue really is to based in the wisdom of love.
As our heart goes through this purification process there will be many times that we come to the crossroad of changing or further insulating the error from correction. Developing the strength of not killing or censoring the messenger is paramount to continued refinement. If the mode of delivery can stop us then growth is usually retarded early on. I think the Biblical prophets are a great illustration. They came in all forms yet the message was always a plea from Heaven to change or create more blockages, further complicating our return to grace. Excellent post, thank you!
I always admire those who can take rebuke or recommendations for change without being defensive. It reveals a maturity and a care more for righteousness than for how you might feel about something. If more took this approach, the world would be a different place.