Virtue alone is not enough.

25 Aug

One of the dirty little secrets that no one tells you growing up in church is that virtue alone is not enough to attract a mate.  Keeping your pants on, never telling lies, and praying and reading the Bible are all fine and good and important, but if this is all you bring to the table, it’s going to be very difficult to interest someone.  This is because nobody wants to be with someone who is bland.

But – you sputter – how can virtue be bland?  It’s VIRTUE.  It’s what we should aspire to!  God calls us to be virtuous!

Yes, but…how can I put it?  A perfectly serviceable couch is more appealing to a buyer if it’s presented in a showroom that complements and enhances it, as opposed to, say, sitting on the side of the street.  In other words, in the moments when you’re not telling lies and not having sex and not reading the Bible or praying, you still need to be interesting and socially adept.  A man who refuses to tell lies and can also tell interesting stories and play the guitar is going to be more interesting and attractive than a man who refuses to tell lies and rarely engages with other people and has no particular interests.

Additionally, I think there is also a tendency for the bland virtuous to start becoming resentful of others for not being attracted to virtue.  This undoes all of the good of being virtuous in the first place…and suggests that maybe you’re not as virtuous as you think you are, if you’re going to get all bent out of shape at others for not prizing your virtue.

In short:  if the main good character trait you can use to describe yourself is “I’m a virgin!” (or “at least I don’t do X and Y like everybody else”), you’re probably not going to get too far with the opposite sex.

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34 Responses to “Virtue alone is not enough.”

  1. Silas Reinagel August 25, 2010 at 2:09 pm #

    Very true.

    In fact, I would go so far as to say that it’s most definitely worth losing a bit of virtue in order to become more human and more interesting.

    Solomon offers some sound advice in Ecclesiastes:

    I have seen everything in my days of vanity: There is a just man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs life in his wickedness. Do not be overly righteous, nor be overly wise; why should you destroy yourself? Do not be overly wicked, nor be foolish; why should you die before your time?

  2. dalrock August 25, 2010 at 2:19 pm #

    Virtue alone might be enough if that is all you want to attract in a mate. I could imagine a boring, plain virtuous woman attracting a boring, plain virtuous man. The problem is if one wants more than what they are willing to bring to the table themselves. Don’t you think?

  3. Cane Caldo August 25, 2010 at 2:20 pm #

    Then you have gone too far. Solomon’s words (good choice by the way; my favorite of the OT) only make it to “don’t die of pride”, not all the way to “sully yourself to be liked”. It’s the difference between not going to far, and quitting. Jesus talked about it in terms of following the spirit of the law, and not the law itself. Your interpretation leads to injustice…which is what Solomon is trying to help us avoid in the first place.

  4. Cane Caldo August 25, 2010 at 2:21 pm #

    I really need to stop responding from a smartphone.

  5. Cane Caldo August 25, 2010 at 2:26 pm #

    On the topic as a whole you’re right. Besides, since when did sloth become a virtue? That’s what we’re talking about here, and men are the worst about it.

  6. Silas Reinagel August 25, 2010 at 2:39 pm #

    First of all, I wasn’t trying to conflate my own opinion with Solomon’s words. I’m not saying that Solomon was directly advising sacrificing one’s virtue.

    However, I’m not convinced that your interpretation of Solomon’s words is accurate. Since it doesn’t seem that pride is a virtue, it seems that it can scarcely mean that an excess of pride is what he is warning against. I think that he might literally mean, don’t be too righteous and don’t be too wise. Perhaps it is better to be fallen and forgiven than perfect.

  7. Ulysses August 25, 2010 at 2:55 pm #

    In the future, virtue alone might be enough to attract an exciting man if virtue becomes exceedingly rare.

  8. Ulysses August 25, 2010 at 2:57 pm #

    Nice generalization.

  9. Richard Cook August 25, 2010 at 3:26 pm #

    Please excuse me while I do some sorting out: virtue “in residence”, that is to say not being used, sitting, not being displayed is, indeed boring. However displayed virtue can be the ultimate mate attractor. I think that displays of virtue are the things that really, really attract a mate. If you never display virtue it will not be known if you have it. Before I knew her my girlfriend lost 90 pound through self will and determination. To me that was an huge turn on. If she had not displayed this virtue and remained with the 90 pounds it is doubtful I would have been attracted. If a man displays courage or mercy or determination I think a woman would at least have the beginnings of attraction. Saying you are virtuous and demonstrating it is all the difference in the world.

    And sometimes displaying these virtues require a Christian to go into some areas Christians have felt uncomfortable going to, at least in recent years. For example displaying courage by fighting in defense of your girl. Using violence. To me it is perfectly legitimate to beat someones ass if they grab your girls behind but some (many) male christians may have a problem with that.

    These thoughts are incomplete but I have to run. Thank you forletting me engage in a little theory spinning.

  10. Richard Cook August 25, 2010 at 3:30 pm #

    The Christian Virtues are Faith, Hope, and Charity. The Roman Virtues are:

    Auctoritas — “Spiritual Authority” — The sense of one’s social standing, built up through experience, Pietas, and Industria.
    Comitas — “Humour” — Ease of manner, courtesy, openness, and friendliness.
    Constantia — “Perseverance” — Military stamina, mental and physical endurance.
    Clementia — “Mercy” — Mildness and gentleness.
    Dignitas — “Dignity” — A sense of self-worth, personal pride.
    Disciplina — “Discipline” — Military oath under Roman protective law & citizenship.
    Firmitas — “Tenacity” — Strength of mind, the ability to stick to one’s purpose.
    Frugalitas — “Frugality” — Economy and simplicity of style, without being miserly.
    Gravitas — “Gravity” — A sense of the importance of the matter at hand, responsibility and earnestness.
    Honestas — “Respectability” — The image that one presents as a respectable member of society.
    Humanitas — “Humanity” — Refinement, civilization, learning, and being cultured.
    Industria — “Industriousness” — Hard work.
    Iustitia — “Justice” — Sense of moral worth to an action.
    Pietas — “Dutifulness” — More than religious piety; a respect for the natural order socially, politically, and religiously. Includes the ideas of patriotism and devotion to others.
    Prudentia — “Prudence” — Foresight, wisdom, and personal discretion.
    Salubritas — “Wholesomeness” — Health and cleanliness.
    Severitas — “Sternness” — Gravity, self-control.
    Veritas — “Truthfulness” — Honesty in dealing with others.
    Virtus – “Manliness” – Valor, excellence, courage, character, and worth. Vir meaning “man”.

    Even though I am a practicing Christian I find myself more in tune with the Roman Virtues.

  11. y81 August 25, 2010 at 3:33 pm #

    I would say that given the nature of sinful man, virtue will be a very small factor in “attracting” a mate. It will, however, be the primary factor that transmutes the dross of sexual attraction into the gold of happy marriage, which is the image of our relationship with God, our true and ultimate husband.

  12. Koanic August 25, 2010 at 4:06 pm #

    Haley’s right. So what are the relevant elements for generatng sexual fascination that American church girls are missing? I will only be discussing sincere Christians.

    American Protestant girls have an unattractive form of sexual repression. It’s intellectualized, rather than the more earthy erotic Catholic taboos. A girl is supposed to instinctively resist temptation. Her virtue is a fortress, but the fortress must be beautiful. Excessive intellectual baggage ruins the symmetry of the architecture.

    I doubt I am making sense to anyone who doesn’t already get it, but further words escape me. Moving on.

    Ego! The liberated Western woman’s curse. This can be blamed on feminism and prosperity, but I think processed food plays a large role in de-feminization as well.

    There’s an easy way to see this, if you know how to read the subtle impressions a soul makes on the face. My favorite, most rigorous method involves using Stumbleupon to surf pictures of pretty girls… PG of course. It will pull the most beautiful women from all across the world (which necessarily excludes models).

    The funny thing is, you can tell whether a girl is western or not, just by looking at the facial expression the camera captured in a single moment. You will see a gentler complaisance, a demureness, an uncertainty, a seeking of approval, on Eastern European, Russian, and Asian women. On Western women, you’ll see excitement, status whoring, manipulation, boldness – more aggressive traits.

    It’s exactly what Roissy talks about in his posts about dating au pairs before they’re corrupted by American friends.

    The great, grand, vital question for the typical American church girl is, can she undo the crassness of her soul? I don’t know. I don’t know how. I think nobody knows how, because no such woman has ever tried? But a humble spirit assuredly helps.

  13. Koanic August 25, 2010 at 4:10 pm #

    Pet peeve.

    God is not your husband. God is not my husband. Jesus also called his disciples his mother, brother, father, sister. Jesus said there is neither giving nor taking in marriage in heaven.

    God is the husband of the church, which is itself a metaphor. Literalizing that metaphor and extending it to the individual is doubling down on stupid.

  14. Cane Caldo August 25, 2010 at 5:02 pm #

    When you state an opinion, and then give a specific quote from an author in support of that opinion, the listener should examine the two as one whole argument. It’s the decent thing to do, and it’s not conflation.

    Let me restate what I wrote above: pride often waylays those in the pursuit of perfection. Of course I was not calling pride a virtue. I’m somewhat surprised I even have to say that, but post-modernism relativism infects everything. Your lack of conviction was anticipated.

    “Perhaps it is better to be fallen and forgiven than perfect.”

    By that logic, Jesus should have accepted at least one of the temptations of Satan–to better relate to us. This reminds me of things public schoold parents say about homeschooled kids: “But…but…they need to be socialized!” Yes, because school children are such good teachers.

  15. Cane Caldo August 25, 2010 at 5:03 pm #

    Thanks. I’d hate to be accused of missing the obvious.

  16. y81 August 25, 2010 at 5:13 pm #

    I didn’t say “your husband” or “my husband”; I said “our husband.” I think we disagree about what is metaphor, however. God is our true husband, father and king. Heavenly relationships are the reality, earthly relationships are the metaphor or image, created in order to allow us to understand what eternity holds. There will be no need for these earthly images when we see the Truth face to face, which was Jesus’s point about human marriage.

  17. Aunt Haley August 25, 2010 at 6:10 pm #

    Well, like does tend to attract like. I have yet to encounter a man in the blogosphere who expresses a preference for plain, boring, and virtuous women, however. (Or a woman who is interested in the same in a man.)

  18. jack August 25, 2010 at 7:04 pm #

    You’re right about the facial expressions on American women in many photographs.

    American women love to do the Fakey Paris Hilton Smile of Insincerity.

    Or the ridiculous pouty-lips pose. Attention-whoring has gotten completely out of control in the US.

  19. Cane Caldo August 25, 2010 at 7:42 pm #

    “…true husband…and king.”

    Oops! You got a little redundancy there.

  20. Cane Caldo August 25, 2010 at 7:50 pm #

    “displayed virtue can be the ultimate mate attractor”

    Excellent point.

    And if you’re American yet not Marxist then of course you favor the Roman virtues. We are the children of Britain (from way back when it had the preface Great); who are the inheritors of Roman ideology; who desperately wanted to be ancient Greece.

    Even so, the three Great Xtian values are the wellspring of the Roman ones. We didn’t create them, we were just the first to recognize it.

  21. Koanic August 25, 2010 at 11:45 pm #

    I’m aware of the pronoun you used. You also used the church marriage metaphor to deprecate the importance of your mate. Pet peeve. Your earthly husband is your true and ultimate husband. I HATE the way church girls skip over this. It’s offensive emotionally, theologically, and intellectually. It’s a justification for self-willed feminism that’s already present. The husband is to lead the wife in religious matters, not be de-prioritized in favor of the wife’s relationship with God.

    Jesus prayed, “Our Father.” He didn’t pray, “Our Husband.” The husband metaphor is appropriate only when discussing the church, as the apostles were wont to do, but as you were clearly NOT doing here.

    My ideal wife would put God before me, but I would never accept her viewing me as the temporary husband and God as the permanent one. That’s what churchian girls do. It’s obnoxious.

    And this Earthly images nonsense is a-Biblical gnostic claptrap. Earth was NOT created to teach us about eternity. Sounds like your entire theology is based on literalizing metaphors. Maybe you should learn to keep quiet in church…

  22. Toz August 26, 2010 at 9:17 am #

    Haley, I like your writing, but I think you define virtue too narrowly here:

    “Keeping your pants on, never telling lies, and praying and reading the Bible”

    The first two are essentially defining virtue as the lack of vice (fornication, dishonesty). The latter two aren’t virtues in of themselves, they’re actions that will enhance actual virtue (charity, faith, justice, etc). Of course you’re going to be boring if all you’re doing is not being vicious (as in full of vice). Actually being virtuous is pretty hard. And not in the “I’ve refrained from stealing my neighbor’s car” sort of way, but in the “I go to the soup kitchen every Thursday” sort of way.

    I would argue that the things that define alpha males are actually outer manifestations of masculine virtue (inner game in pua parlance). Fortitude, courage, commitment to truth and not what other people think (part of justice), etc. Similarly, what makes females attractive are outer manifestations of feminine virtue. Sure a good portion of outer beauty is genetic, but it’s enhanced by self-discipline, gentleness, loyalty and the like.

    Still, you may be right. Maybe virtue isn’t enough. But real virtue, when really attained will be enough to attract at least some.

  23. JackAmok August 26, 2010 at 9:35 am #

    “We are the children of Britain (from way back when it had the preface Great); who are the inheritors of Roman ideology; who desperately wanted to be ancient Greece.”

    You had me up to the last part. The Romans of virtue most definitely did not want to be the ancient Greeks. The influence of Greek culture was the cause of much of the decay of Roman virtue.

  24. Cane Caldo August 26, 2010 at 11:14 am #

    You’re splitting the hair too fine; we agree. The virtuous Romans imitated the best of the Greeks in religion, literature, art…lots of areas. The lesser Romans, well, they did what you say: “The influence of Greek culture was the cause of much of the decay of Roman virtue.”

    We got some bad traits from Britain, too. I just wasn’t talking about those.

  25. Aunt Haley August 26, 2010 at 11:23 am #

    Toz, it wasn’t meant to be an exhaustive list of character traits but a sampling of things that most church-going evangelicals would put heavily in the “plus” column.

  26. Toz August 26, 2010 at 11:51 am #

    Ah, see, what church-going evangelicals put in the plus column is very different than real virtue. That’s what you write most of your posts on, though with a different slant on it. “Good Christian” according to church-going people is very different than “Good Christian” according to secular people, God and certainly human biology. You get all those pluses and at best you become a plain boring person and at worst you become a Pharisee.

    The problem, in the end, is the use of the word “virtue” in this context. Actual virtue, I think is plenty enough to attract members of the opposite sex. It’ll make you more interesting, more attractive and more alive. Easily faked “virtues” and non-vices like the ones you described in this post are only going to make you, as you’ve already concluded, a boring uninteresting person.

    Question for you:

    Suppose you rate women according to virtue as people do beauty on other blogs. So, say, X is a 9 in gentleness or Y is 5 in justice. Is a 10 in any particular virtue rarer or more plentiful than a 10 in physical beauty?

  27. Silas Reinagel August 26, 2010 at 12:31 pm #

    That you are unaware of the literary implications of a period combined with a paragraph break surprises me due to your apparent level of intelligence.

    Given that my thoughts were merely whimsical musings, rather than being a well-developed and cohesive theological stance, I hardly think you should object to my tentative expression of thoughts which I do not even necessarily fully support.

    Returning to the topic of conversation, while I agree that pride does sometimes waylay those in pursuit of perfection, I also find that the very pursuit of perfection often waylays those in pursuit of perfection. When the emphasis is on “being more righteous” and “better following God’s law,” it is all too easy to miss the point. The entire purpose of the law is to point out the fact that none of us is perfect or virtuous. Perfection is best attained not by striving for righteousness, but by comfortably abiding, as a sinful and imperfect person, in the righteousness of our perfect Savior. Since His virtue is now ours, we need not be overly concerned with our own rightousness. We need not pursue that which we’ve already attained. Instead, the best choice is to simply focus on loving God and loving people, while eschewing all moralistic pursuit of perfection.

  28. Cane Caldo August 26, 2010 at 2:09 pm #

    “That you are unaware of the literary implications of a period combined with a paragraph break surprises me due to your apparent level of intelligence.”

    Creating rules that don’t exist (Like implying that a paragraph break combined with a period definitely and always means that the topics are unrelated enough that one should never view the former in the light of the latter, or vice-versa.) is basically a lie.

    “Given that my thoughts were merely whimsical musings rather than being a well-developed and cohesive theological stance, I hardly think you should object to my tentative expression of thoughts which I do not even necessarily fully support.”

    Your text has more qualifiers than the Miss America pageant. If I am going to make any sense of what you say I have no choice but to mentally cross them all out and deal with the substance.

    “I agree that pride does sometimes waylay those in pursuit of perfection, I also find that the very pursuit of perfection often waylays those in pursuit of perfection.”

    You’re saying the same thing twice.

    “Perfection is best attained not by striving for righteousness, but by comfortably abiding, as a sinful and imperfect person, in the righteousness of our perfect Savior. Since His virtue is now ours, we need not be overly concerned with our own rightousness. We need not pursue that which we’ve already attained. Instead, the best choice is to simply focus on loving God and loving people while eschewing all moralistic pursuit of perfection.””

    Now go back and read what I wrote above; about how Solomon was not saying we should commit evil to be better.

    Part of the problem is that we live in a Christianized society. The parable of the Good Samaritan is a no-brainer for us today–even disreputable politicians have no problem bringing it up. When Jesus first told it he was being radical by saying that it was better pursuit of the spirit of the law to soil yourself with an unclean Gentile than to satisfy the letter of the law by cleanly passing by. Neither of them were saying to do something unrighteous for the sake of being more interesting. That is what you said.

  29. Silas Reinagel August 26, 2010 at 2:22 pm #

    “Neither of them were saying to do something unrighteous for the sake of being more interesting. That is what you said.”

    Precisely.

    However, both of them were saying that righteousness is something deeper and more nuanced than mere rule-following. When virtue is defined as “adherence to certain Evangelical social rules,” as is the implied meaning in Haley’s post, then both the words of Jesus and Solomon directly attest to the harmfulness of clinging to such “virtue.”

    Such “virtue” is well worth losing, whether in pursuit of righteousness or in the pursuit of being interesting. Nowhere did I state that anyone should commit an act of evil in order to be better, nor did I anywhere imply that committing an act of evil would lead to more righteousness or interestingness.

  30. Cane Caldo August 26, 2010 at 3:29 pm #

    What a load of crap. You used virtue in the same sense Haley did without any announcement of a different sense–specifically “virginity” and “not doing x and y.” Your advice then is to engage in a little non-virginity, a dab of x, and tad y.

    And to think I gave you pass on your mid-argument about-face. Pathetic.

  31. Aunt Haley August 27, 2010 at 10:47 am #

    Suppose you rate women according to virtue as people do beauty on other blogs. So, say, X is a 9 in gentleness or Y is 5 in justice. Is a 10 in any particular virtue rarer or more plentiful than a 10 in physical beauty?

    Without delving into the semantics of “what constitutes a 10?/can a 10 actually exist?”, I’d say that a 10 in any particular virtue is just as rare as an exceptionally beautiful woman.

  32. CS August 31, 2010 at 7:43 am #

    Good post koanic. I hadn’t considered it before but you’re right about the facial expressions of western women vs. women from more feminine (not feminist) cultures.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Word Around the Campfire – the Change of Pace edition « Hidden Leaves - August 28, 2010

    […] Aunt Haley: Virtue alone is not enough. […]

  2. Linkage is Good for You: Backlog Edition (NSFW) - August 29, 2010

    […] Aunt Haley – “Eat Lots of Pasta, Pray…Sort Of, Love Yourself More Than Anyone Else in the World.“, “Virtue Alone is Not Enough.” […]

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