Go beyond virtue signaling (Beyond black and white conceptions series 4)

When we see someone doing something horribly wrong, we may feel driven to protest or correct. Nowadays when activism is often seen as cool, we may even announce that it is our mission to fix that wrong. While embracing such a cause can be good, we need to introspect whether we are actually acting virtuously or are merely virtue signaling. 

This difference may easily slip below our radar because noticing it will necessitate the hard work of cultivating virtue. Wanting to stop vice is good; cultivating virtue to stop vice is better but tougher. In contrast, doing virtue signaling about how we are fighting vice is far easier. 

To actually make a positive difference, we don’t need to just take down the person doing something vicious; we need to replace them with someone virtuous. When we criticize or condemn someone doing something wrong, we may consciously or unconsciously project ourselves as a virtuous alternative. However, if we haven’t actually developed virtue, even if we succeed in removing the wrongdoer, we may not solve the problem much. The world’s history reveals repeatedly how revolutions often ended up making things worse, not better. 

Does this mean we should never fight against injustice? Certainly not; it just means that we don’t let the fight against those with vice in their hearts overshadow or replace the inner fight to establish virtue in our own hearts. When we take time to introspect, we come to the mode of goodness which illuminates our inner world (Bhagavad-gita 14.11). Then we can better review and reform our motivations so that we develop the virtue that contributes tangibly to a sustainable solution. . 

 One-sentence summary: 

To go beyond virtue signaling about solving a problem, decrease the gap between the motivations we believe drive us and the motivations which actually drive us. 

Think it over:

  • Why may we choose to do virtue signaling?
  • Why did most world revolutions fail to make things better?
  • When combating social wrongs, how can we contribute to sustainable solutions? 


14.11: The manifestation of the mode of goodness can be experienced when all the gates of the body are illuminated by knowledge.


To know more about this verse, please click on the image

Author: Chaitanya Charan

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  1. JAPA opens all gates of virtues

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