How easy is it to make excuses? Any honest person would have to admit that they make excuses every day, and often multiple times a day, because that is often the easiest option in a situation. Why were you late to work? Traffic was bad. Why didn’t you take out the trash? Oh, I thought about it, but then I got distracted by this other thing and forgot.
Excuses are our way of preserving our ego from admitting failure. We use them to paint over our faults and excuse ourselves of blame. Sometimes we even do this over more consequential and ongoing issues in our lives. Why can’t we make meaningful emotional connections to others? Well, my parents didn’t hug me enough. Why did you cheat on your wife? Because she wasn’t having sex with me as much as I would like. Why do you drink yourself to blackouts every night? I’m under a lot of stress.
We excuse away all of our bad traits and behaviors so we can still tell ourselves that we are good people and that all of our problems are the faults of others. While this seems easy, meaningless, and sometimes justified absolving yourself of your faults does you more damage than you can understand.
Each of us is an individual who makes decisions in our lives. Those decisions shape the course of our existence. All of our success and failures stem from these decisions. If we discount the decisions that make up our failures we immediately discount those decisions that made us successful. By making excuses and refusing to live up to your faults and failures, you remove from yourself all agency.
Many people smarter than myself have stated that a person’s happiness and wellbeing are directly linked to their belief that they have agency in their lives. Therefore, refusing to face the darker parts of yourself that make mistakes on a regular basis, you are also defeating the brightest parts of yourself that have allowed you to succeed to whatever level you have in your life. You can only do this so long before you find yourself incapable of believing that you control your own destiny at all.
The best part of this message is, while looking at your faults honestly is painful and difficult, when you do this the strong parts of you only get stronger. Being honest about your faults is like weightlifting for the soul. And just like a real gym, only you can make the decision to go in and do the hard work. If I may be a little lame and quote lyrics from a mid-2000’s song to prove my point; Allow me to remind you of the words of Incubus…
Social media has been a great boon to society in many ways. Being able to post onto a site where millions of people hang out has allowed smaller content creators and businesses to break through monopolistic barriers in stagnant industries such as the music and movie industries. Access to different cultures and ideas have made the world both a vast landscape where infinite is seemingly at your fingertips and simultaneously so small that you can become intimate friends with a person on the other side of the globe.
Yet, as with every human endeavor, the immense good comes to us as a well paved road with steep cliffs at either side. Social media has allowed vanity to run rampant in our culture and has many people acting as their own PR firms, doing shallow acts in the public eye to increase their stock with their peers without accomplishing anything.
Welcome to the stage – the virtue signal.
I am not naïve enough to believe that humans have always been virtuous before our current culture, that would be an act of blindness so immense one would have to wonder if I still possess a pulse, but we did have societal standards that tried to call attention to our base desires and point us in a more productive direction. These were the Cardinal Virtues; Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance.
Virtue signaling has become commonplace because the act gives you all of the social capital that actual virtues will get you without the work. We see it every day when someone scrawls posts of empty-worded sloganeering all over their page for a few dozen likes or when a corporation pretends to care about a hot-button issue because they think it will help their bottom-line or when a politician pretends to care about an issue to get your vote with no intention of following through with their promises. We have devolved as a culture to reward these vane practices as morally high-minded and worthy of praise.
We shouldn’t mince words, virtue signaling is a selfish act of pride only meant to bolster the signaler and no one else. Pride is a vice we should try to extinguish from our culture. Pride is the mother of all sins because pride deludes us into thinking we are beyond reproach. Pride demands respect and attention from those around us. Pride does not give anything back to the world. Pride only takes.
If you want to do something good in the world, practice the four Cardinal Virtues. Be prudent in your decisions, be just to yourself and the world around you, have the fortitude to weather life’s unavoidable struggles, and temper your desires so they don’t overtake you. And also, live your values quietly. Your silent greatness will speak louder than that weak voice in the void asking for attention.