Does the good outweigh the bad? That’s the main question on my mind today. By expounding on the words virtues, vices, and habits then relating them to life experiences hopefully I can answer that question.
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Vices vs. Bad Habits
First, let’s explore the differences between vices and bad habits. They are similar, in fact, I’ve always thought of them as kind of the same things.
So let’s look at definitions of each according to Merriam-Webster.
Definition of vice (as a noun) 1a: moral depravity or corruption b: a moral fault or failing c: a habitual and usually trivial defect or shortcominghttps://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vice
Definition of habit (as a noun) 1: a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior 2a: an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary b: Addiction ( ie: a drug habit) c: a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performancehttps://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/habit
Applying these definitions
Considering the above definitions, I would say that habits are repeated behaviors on a regular basis. Something we have done so much that we start doing it without even thinking about it.
So by that description of a habit, I would also assume that all habits are not bad. I would think we could also break bad habits and even replace bad habits with good ones.
Now let’s look at the definition of vice and compare it to bad habits.
By definition a vice is habitual, so it’s similar to a bad habit in as much as that both are repeatedly done on a regular basis. However, unlike a bad habit, a vice is described as a moral fault or failing; moral depravity or corruption.
Thus, meaning the difference would be that vice is immoral and a bad habit is perhaps just not good or healthy for you. This is my understanding, would you agree?
Virtues, Vices, and Bad Habits
We’ve looked at vices and bad habits, now let’s look at virtues. Virtues are the good stuff, right? Well, yes, but let’s look at what I found when researching this topic.
Our parents and teachers begin training us when we are young. As we get older, we continue the training process on our own. Eventually, we develop habits that become fixed character traits of our personality. In short, we acquire what moral philosophers call virtues—positive character traits that regulate emotions and urges. Typical virtues include courage, temperance, justice, prudence, fortitude, liberality, and truthfulness. Vices, by contrast, are negative character traits that we develop in response to the same emotions and urges. Typical vices include cowardice, insensibility, injustice, and vanity. As a fully developed moral theory, virtue theory is the view that the foundation of morality is the development of good character traits, or virtues. A person is good if he or she has virtues and lacks vices.https://www.utm.edu/staff/jfieser/class/300/virtues.htm
If you will notice virtues are described as positive character traits, while vices are described as negative character traits. But did you also notice that virtues include justice while vices include injustices? Once again pointing out that vices are immoral, unlike a bad habit.
My greatest examples of virtues
When I think of virtues or someone with great virtues I instantly think of my parents. As kids, I think most of us see our parents as heroes. We think of them as people that know everything and can fix everything.
But even as an adult with kids of my own I still saw my parents as people without many faults. My daddy chewed tobacco, but that is the only bad habit I can remember about him. My mom drank one cup of coffee each morning and that was the only fault I remember of hers.
I’m honestly not exaggerating. My daddy believed the old rule of a man is as good as his word. A promise and a handshake from him was as good as any legally binding agreement. My parents were honest down-home country folk. They worked hard, served God, loved family and helped their neighbors.
The Bible speaks of the Virtuous Woman in Proverbs. Many times I’ve heard reference to the “Proverbs 31 Woman”. That description is how I think of my Momma.
My favorite part is verses 25-29 which says:
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. 26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. 27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29 “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”Proverbs 31:25-29
My Momma was loved and respected by all that knew her. She was the librarian at our elementary school for most of her life. Children flocked to her. Those same children who are now adults still tell me how much my Momma meant to them.
If I could be even one-tenth of the woman she was I would be amazing. However, I have always been a bit of a rebel. As the old country song goes, “I’m The Only Hell My Momma Ever Raised”.
My Vices and Bad Habits
Let’s just get this part out of the way. I am basically an open book, so to speak. Anyone that knows me basically knows most of my bad habits anyway so I think I’m strong enough to admit my flaws on this blog.
First and what I consider my very worst bad habit is that I smoke. It’s awful, I know! I’m a nurse, I should know better! I have health issues and smoking makes it all worse. Believe me, I know all this and more. I’ve heard it all from doctors, family, and friends. I started when my first husband and I separated which was almost 30 years ago now. I’ve tried quitting many times. I no longer call this a bad habit, it’s an addiction. I wouldn’t call it a vice because it isn’t actually immoral, but it’s definitely not good for me.
Next on my list is coffee!! I want my coffee first thing in the morning (with that first cigarette). Again there is nothing immoral about coffee, so I wouldn’t call this a vice either, but it’s not an addiction. Coffee is just a bad habit but it’s not one that I freak out over if I don’t have it. I can easily replace it with Dr. Pepper, tea, or even juice.
Tea! I do love my tea!! I don’t know if I even consider this a bad habit. It isn’t a vice and even my doctor says it isn’t bad for me. It definitely is a habit, maybe even an addiction. Hot or cold, I drink tea all day, every day. I’m southern, so what do you expect? I love my sweet iced tea with a touch of lemon!
More than a bad habit?
Then there is my love for Whiskey. Yes, I have to admit I am a Whiskey girl. Jack Daniels Black label for me, please. There was a time I drank a lot! I have slowed down. Now I may only drink a couple of times a month if that much. I’m mostly a social drinker, but when I do drink I prefer it to be whiskey. I will call this one a vice because I usually drink a little too much and I may not act like a lady.
Another one I’ll go ahead and call a vice is that I cuss. For a Southern lady, I sure have a dirty mouth. When I get angry or overly excited I do a lot more than just “Bless Hearts”! I never cussed until I started work in the health profession. Seemed like everyone did it and soon I was doing it too without thinking. So I hate to admit it, but I tend to use d&@n and s*%t to add emphasis on things.
I suppose since this post is talking about virtues, vices, and bad habits I have to talk about all of them.
I can easily name my flaws but find it very difficult to name my better qualities. Not that I don’t think I have any, it’s just I don’t like talking about myself that way. It feels like bragging or being egotistical in some way.
But I’ll give it a go. I loved being a nurse because I’m compassionate and I think of myself as a caregiver. I enjoy taking care of other people.
I’m a problem solver and a good listener. The majority of my career was in psych-nursing.
I once made a post on Facebook asking my friends to make a one-word comment that described me. I was in awe of the comments I received. I kept that list. I won’t list all the words, but the list included strong, hard-worker, brave, loving, advocate, friend, loyal and audacious.
Does the Good Outweigh the Bad?
So I’m back to my original question. I cannot answer that question for everyone. That is something that each person has to answer for themselves.
I think the best we can do is to strive each day to be better than we were yesterday.
As for myself, I feel that by comparing my own virtues, vices and bad habits that maybe I’m not doing too bad.
I’ve raised 3 children who have all grown into amazing young adults that are better than I am, which was my goal for them. I helped a lot of patients during my career as a nurse. So if smoking and drinking a little too much whiskey now and then are the worst of my habits perhaps my good just might outweigh my bad. What do you think?
Spread some kindness, do some good for others and offset your bad habits. It never hurts to add to your virtues.
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Until next time,