Many years ago, when I was doing my novel-writing course, my tutor, Alex Smith, said that if a character needs a bit of development, I should use this Proust questionnaire as a starting point. Every so often I take it out and have fun with my friends, “interviewing them”. It’s also fun to look back at what original answers were vs what they are now. Some things change, some things stay the same.
One of the questions that always fascinates me is “what is the most overrated virtue?” It is a question that, at first glance, seems easy to answer, but in reality, it isn’t, because not everyone has the same understanding of what a virtue is, nor do their moral compasses face the same True North.
So, instead of working it from that angle, I’ve opted to discuss what the underrated ones are – in my misfit opinion, but also in the opinions of others who opted to reply to a post I put on Facebook in an attempt to research more about the topic.
To start, I’ll talk about one of the virtues that ranks really high on my list, but that is very often disregarded by others (whether intentional or not, it doesn’t matter): Kindness.
What has become my motto in life is this quote by Ian Maclaren:
Face it… Every single one of you reading this post has had it tough at some stage of your life. Would something as simple as a smile from a stranger, a hug from a friend, an encouraging word from a colleague, or a gentle squeeze on the hand from your spouse have eased the trial, if even for a fleeting moment? I believe so. I’m not in any way trying to say that kindness is the key to solving the problem, but merely that it lightens the burden, if only for a short while. It opens the door for other virtues, like hope and perseverance.
Do I fail at being kind? Sure, I do. I’m not infallible. Honestly, I fail at a lot of the virtues that will be blogged about during the course of this month. My creativity sometimes leaves for months on end; I can sometimes be selfish instead of selfless; sometimes I am conceited, instead of modest…
In closing, I challenge you to be kind to everyone who crosses your path today, bearing in mind that kindness, like every other virtue, does not require a grand exhibition of self, but a pureness of heart and a humble spirit.