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Reverb11: Balancing the Virtue-Flaw Continuum

Fountain in Grandview, Texas. (photo by Tui Snider)
Fountain in Grandview, Texas. (photo by Tui Snider)

The Virtue-Flaw Continuum

Have you ever noticed how people’s virtues directly link to their flaws? Look closely, and you’ll see that a person’s best trait often goes hand-in-hand with their most annoying. I think one of life’s challenges is to keep our traits balanced so they come off in a positive way.

When we’re out of balance:

    Tenacity becomes stubbornness
    Cleanliness turns OCD
    Concentration becomes aloofness
    Perfectionism turns into procrastination
    Kindness slides into gullibility
    Helpfulness becomes codependence
    Outspokenness becomes opinionated
    Honesty veers into tactlessness
    Politeness turns insincere

Have you noticed any of these virtue-flaws in yourself? (It’s usually easier to see these things in others, at least for me!) Can you think of any more?

My Virtue-Flaw Continuum

Like everyone else, I’ve got my share of virtue-flaws. One that I became aware of this year has to do with self-criticism. This particular virtue-flaw cropped up back in March when, over the space of a week, five different friends told me I was the least judgmental person they knew.

I might not have thought much if only one person said that, but after so much repetition, I decided to ponder the idea. After all, one of the great gifts of friendship is when your pals point out stuff you are too myopic to see in your own life. It’s not all sparkles and unicorns, either. Sometimes what our dearest friends teach us about ourselves can be a bit painful and embarrassing.

This time, though, I was being complimented – and yet I found myself squirming at their words. A part of me wanted to reject their praise, as silly as that seems.

After mulling it over, I realized that my non-judgmental outlook directly connects to my lifelong struggle with self-criticism. A surprising benefit from feeling worthless for so many years is that I have no desire to make others feel that way, nor to pass that kind of judgment on them. So even though my self-esteem is a gazillion times better than it used to be, I have the happy side effect of not being overly judgmental. Even so – as my reluctance to accept their praise revealed – I still yank out a few mental weeds of inner criticism from time to time.

Having this virtue-flaw pointed out helped me realize how far I have come.

Day 3: #Reverb11, #Resound11, #Relish11

Today’s post is my response to Jaemie’s #Resound11 prompt for Day 3, which reads:

Virtues: Yesterday we got down and dirty and revealed our 2011 vices; today we’ll wipe the slate clean and talk about what personal virtues we discovered in 2011. What good have you done in 2011? Where do you really shine? What have you done that makes you proud of yourself?”

#Reverb11, #Resound11 and #Relish11 are just a few names for a fun end of the year project that mindful bloggers all over the world are participating in. Each day in December, folks choose a prompt from one of several lists then use that as a launchpad to express themselves on their blog. The prompts are especially geared towards reflecting back on 2011 and paving the way towards a better 2012.

Everyone is welcome to join in. If you don’t have a blog, you can respond to the prompts offline through journaling, painting or whatever you feel inspired to do.

Tui Snider
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Published inTravel Photo Essays


  1. One of the best topics I have read in a while. I have never really thought about. That’s what I love about blogs, you always learn something new by reading other peoples thoughts. This hit the nail through the wall and thank you for sharing.

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Kevin,

      Nice to see you here. :)

      I’m glad this post made sense to you. I’m not always sure when I hit the “publish” button if I’m on the mark or not, but sometime I just go ahead anyway!

      Thanks againg for stopping by!

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hey Paula!

      Thank you! :) It was rather long-winded, but I felt quite passionate about it. Lately, I’ve decided to let myself be a little more long-winded.


  2. Oh, wow, I read this originally days ago, can’t believe my comment didn’t show up and YES! There is a reason to return!

    Interesting because the whole concept of self criticism is right along with my REVERB post today. Very cool reading,Tui. Thank you for being bold and posting this!

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Julie!

      I hadn’t thought of myself as being bold, but I like that idea! :)

      Sorry your comment didn’t show up. I hate it when that happens!

      I’m not the faster blogger in the west… I like to kinda steep ideas in my brain for a while until I put them online.

      Thanks again for stopping by again! I’m off to read your post now! :)


  3. Very thoughtful post! I Aristotle said that virtues were about balance very famously in “Nicomachean Ethics”. For example their is anger. The vice is the either you are quick to anger or you are never angry. The virtue is to be angry in the right amount, for the right reason, for the right amount of time.

    Dropping by from Twitter

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Susan,

      Regarding me and Aristotle, what can I say? Great minds think alike, right? ;p

      Seriously, though, thank you for pointing me to this link and to this concept. I am going to check it out.

      Isn’t it impressive how much the ancient Greeks knew, and how these principles extend into our present?

      Thank you for sharing this with me. Hope to see you here again. :)


  4. In the past I’ve noticed that what attracted me in couple relationships later became a source of frustration; my husband’s dreaminess lost its charm until he simply seemed self-absorbed. Applying the virtue-flaw to oneself is a brilliant concept! I totally relate to your strong inner-critic/ nonjudgmental attitude towards others. I’d never connected my perfectionism with procrastination, but again you are spot on!! Thankfully I’m learning to keep my ‘helpfulness’ in balance and moving away from codependency. Fantastic insights! I look forward to reading more and will check out the prompts you mentioned. Cheers!

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Oh yeah, Robin!

      I hear ya on all that… Actually your comment kinda tossed my brain off into the past for a moment. OK, maybe it was more than a moment, but you got me thinking about how I’m attracted to people with certain virtue-flaws and how that all ties in with my own…

      You husband’s dreaminess, for instance, made me think of how I have cultivated the creativity of various boyfriends whilst denying my own. Hmmm…

      You’ve given me lots to think about, Robin! Thank you!


  5. I love this post! I’ve thought before about how virtue and flaws can be tightly roped together, but the balance question never occurred to me, and that’s it’s when we’re out of balance that virtues morph into flaws. That makes SO much sense and I can already tell it’s going to give me great perspective as I work on yanking up my own mental weeds. Thank you! :)

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Noel!

      Thanks for your kind comments. I’m really enjoying your posts and am happy to have found you via Reverb, Resound, Re… whatever “re” it happened to be! :)


  6. I’m kind of inspired to sit down with my notebooks from this year to see what patterns of “virtue-flaws” occur within my writing. I’m also a bit afraid to do so — which could be an indication of a “virtue-flaw” right there. Thanks for stimulating my brain! Looking forward to reading more of your prompt responses.

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Meredith,

      Let me know what you come up with if/when you decide to take the plunge! I promise to dive into something scary journal-wise (and to blog about it) if you do the same. :)

      I’ve got your blog in my RSS reader, so I’ll be popping by quite often to see how it’s going for you. :)

  7. Now that you say it, I see it. We will have to watch for the continuum problem; it’s like a pendulum.

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Michael,

      I like your image of a pendulum. That really works for me!

      Thanks for swinging by (pun intended!) and saying hi. See you soon – on your blog! :)


  8. I seem to be pondering your words and applying it to my life. I think I may have to journal about it to really allow myself to go deep enough to see what mine is. Though I chose #Relish11, Time Invested, it felt like it coincided with virtue. Yes I think I am going to have to do some journaling.

    Thank you for your wise words.


    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Morgan,

      Your blog has the same effect on me – it makes me feel introspective. Thanks for all the “thought-food.”


  9. This is so profound, Tui! I never even thought about the ‘virtue-flaw continuum’ but the way you have laid it out here, it makes absolute sense. Kudos to you for coming discovering this about yourself.

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Thanks, Stereo! I’m not quite sure when the virtue-flaw thing popped into my mind, but I’ve kept a lookout for it ever since. See ya on your blog! :) ~Tui

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