“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.