Skill Isn’t Virtue

I was talking about the new chief administrator to a friend and she said, “wait, I thought you really liked him. Didn’t you say he was a great public speaker?”

People often mistake praise for a specific skill or a trait a person has for a blanket approval of everything that individual will ever do from now on into the eternity.

Sadly, gifts aren’t bestowed on people as a reward for outstanding virtue. There’s actually no connection between gifts and virtue at all. One can admire the talent of an athlete or a musician and derive great pleasure from their performance without considering their private life, for instance, remotely admirable.


13 thoughts on “Skill Isn’t Virtue

    1. “you’re assumed to endorse everything they think, do, or say”

      It’s part of the overall infantilization of behavior and attitudes found in…. lots o’ countries now. This is how small children view the world and it’s being maintained (or reintroduced) into adulthood…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s really true. I keep having these conversations with Klara when I say, “Princess Ivy is beautiful” and she gets incensed. “She’s evil, Mommy! She’s an evil character!” “I know, but I’m saying she looks nice!” “No, she doesn’t! She’s mean!” I fully hope Klara will grow out of it, though.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. “I fully hope Klara will grow out of it, though”

          It sounds like a normal and (probably) necessary part of developing personal judgment. A child at Klara’s age thinking that way is pretty normal, but an adult thinking that way is deeply creepy…

          According to my own (never-to-be-tested) theory of parenting, developing judgment of that kind only happens through some hard emotional knocks brought about through contacts where the initial judgment turns out to be very wrong. Parents naturally don’t relish that idea but… the people I’ve known with good judgment got it through often painful trial and error….

          Liked by 1 person

          1. My parents had a perhaps unsavory way of teaching this. I don’t think it was deliberate, it’s just… they are actually quite good at dealing with people who are extremely mixed bags: layabouts, con artists, drunks, insane people, petty criminals… my parents do not avoid them (they ran a halfway house for people leaving the state asylum, in their youth). They did not do anything horrifying like let these people babysit, but they were always in our social circle– in all cases, there was something they were really good at (artists, mechanics, you name it), and part of how we got by on such a skinny budget was that my parents were willing to deal with the abject drunk in exchange for car repairs– they’d take his schizo sister to doctor’s appointments, go out to lunch with him, lend him money to pay the water bill, and most importantly, were not ashamed to be seen in public with him. As a mechanic, the guy was a genius. Couldn’t hold down a job or keep a drivers’ license, but could fix anything.

            I remember others. Need a nice gift for an important occasion? Off we’d go to visit our con-artist friend. Wouldn’t ever get involved in one of his business ventures, but he was amusing for an hour and could come up with a string of nice freshwater pearls at wholesale on no notice, for a friend.

            In discussions now and then, my parents would let drop some of the less savory aspects of one friend or another, while also acknowledging the things they were good at. So we grew up with these distinctions being pointed out to us. This person is a friend. We help him out, he helps us out. He also can’t be trusted with cash or medications. We hope someday he’ll get over it, but you can’t count on it. This guy makes an extremely good living doing traveling sales. We don’t think anything he does is precisely illegal, but… if I tried to make a living that way I would have trouble with my conscience. And so on. I remember knowing these things from a fairly early age: that you can like someone, and be a friend to them, without completely trusting them. Everybody’s got their weaknesses, and you try not to be ignorant about them. But as long as they’re not actively dangerous to you… everybody should be treated like a person.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. “My parents had a perhaps unsavory way of teaching this”

              Mine weren’t quite that extreme but they both knew and liked all sorts of unsavory characters (though by modern standards a lot of them were pretty wholesome….).

              There was a pretty steady stream of various non-conformists and oddballs though the house (or houses after they separated), all accepted with open arms (while an eye was kept on the silverware as it were).

              They pretty resolutely stayed out of the personal lives of my brother and I (for which I’m very grateful….). If we brought something to them they’d comment and if we didn’t they didn’t pry. I’m not sure I would have survived prying parents…..


      2. That’s a very nice insight! I see this all around at my workplace and among friends these days. People in their forties should know better — but unfortunately they don’t.

        My theory is that promoting this way of thinking is a way to avoid accountability. If someone is always good and you listen to what they say, you never even bother to listen to the other side. And if you never listen to the other side, you never know if they are right, and if they have managed to achieve a much-better standard of living with their methods than you have.

        I have a friend who is so incensed with the goings-on in FL and TX that she even refuses to visit these states. But this prevents her from realizing that those states have a much higher standard of living than CA — people with comparable salaries have much bigger houses, public schools have much smaller class sizes, for example — and ultimately prevents her from holding the CA government accountable for what they have done to us.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. “this way of thinking is a way to avoid accountability”

          I think (seriously) that it’s part of the progress of neoliberalism (which needs followers to mentally regress to childhood because it depends a lot on unthinking acceptance of ideas that would be rejected immediately by an adult consciousness).

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Many people have worked out that almost anywhere is more affordable than New York or California. Where do you think the people are coming from who are driving up house prices?


    2. So annoying.

      I also don’t understand why people often start their comments on the blog with “I don’t agree with everything you say but I agree with this.” Of course, you don’t agree with everything you say. It would be creepy if anybody were an exact clone of me in everything.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Sometimes, I do not even agree with myself (or myself I was yesterday), it is too much to ask to agree with other people…

          Liked by 2 people

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