What is the most overrated virtue?

“It’s my opinion that every one I know has morals, though I wouldn’t like to ask. I know I have. But I’d rather teach them than practice them any day. “Give them to others”–that’s my motto.
Mark Twain

Virtues are important for developing character. No one has all of them. Hypocrites have them in public. Some are better than others.

But in your experience, which virtues are most overrated by others?

If we’re talking about the traditional Christian virtues, I’ll go with ‘Chastity’.

Disgust, respect for authority, and loyalty. Obviously, in Moral Foundations Theory I’m a classic liberal.

Seriously, how does “loyalty” even pass the smell test? As I understand, it means when your friends do something wrong, you double down with them. So, it’s unethical by its definition.

I’m on your team here, but this one is easy enough to understand. It’s the moral label for this impulse:

A tried and true saying. That personifies what is IMO the fundamental flaw of human nature. The inability to realize that Us and Them are the same people. Loyalty is the moral label given to the idea of treasuring Us and devaluing Them.

There are certainly higher better purposes to which it can be put, but at base, loyalty is a bargain with the Devil.


It has always seemed to me that the act requires the participant to adopt an air of moral superiority that makes it a case of, “I am right and you are wrong.” I have suffered harm, some quite serious, from the actions of other people and, while I hold no grudges or ill will toward them, I don’t think it is my place to forgive them.

Most virtues can be made toxic. In my opinion, the most common in America is “individualism” - so much selfish bullshit is slathered with a coating of “I have to be me/I’m being true to myself/I’m a nonconformist.” Rather than conceding a view is wrong or based solely on preference, the problem is everyone else are sheep.

Unselfishness, with forgiveness as a close second.

This, so much of this. Really, very few of the classic virtues, western or otherwise are bad, or overrated, but people most certainly are! And a huge number of people use their pride of virtue as an excuse for the absolute worst actions imaginable.

While I’m not sure I would call it the most overrated, the one that normally gets under my skin the most is honesty.

Because I’ve lost track of the number of times (on this board, or elsewhere) someone has said something along the line of “I’m not racist/sexist/etc, I just honestly think ( horrible racist/sexist/etc truism)”

It makes me climb the walls. Because they’re being ‘honest’ I’m expected to give said horrible sentiment credence and acceptance.

Aaaaand now I need a drink. Take that as another virtue that can be tossed aside.

When has disgust ever been considered a virtue?

Agreed, but isn’t “faith” the standout example here? It’s not just an overrated virtue, it’s not a virtue at all. It’s a cognitive defect to stubbornly maintain one’s beliefs in the face of evidence to the contrary.

Faith isn’t one of the traditional virtues in Christianity. Charity/generosity, patience, dilligence, modesty, kindness, patience, and modesty are the 7 traditional Christian virtues.

So they were doing a hard sell on the modesty?

“The meek shall become the ballers of the Earth.” – Jesus Christ in his Sermon on the Mount, Def Jam Translation of the Bible

Okay, gratitude. Like the gratitude I have for having my error pointed out!

I must admit (although raised as a Christian) I had never heard of this. Are you talking about this Catholic thing? This seems to have two sets of seven, with faith showing up in one list.

In my opinion, piety is clearly the most overrated virtue. At least other virtues are directed towards other people. Piety is showing respect to something which probably doesn’t exist. And if it does exist, it has no need of human belief. Piety is just wasted effort that could be better spent on something useful.

In the sense of purity and disdain for impurity. For example, people who are disgusted by a demographic identity consider their disgust a virtue. It’s thought to have entered the pantheon of human virtues by repurposing an instinct we already had, which helped us avoid contagious disease, toward hatred of groups of people we don’t belong to.


Humility. You ever tried playing Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar as the Shepherd? It makes the early game a complete pain in the ass.

Patriotism. The louder you holler it, the more you ain’t. Do you pay your taxes even though you feel the system isn’t fair? Do you vote though you think it’s a waste of time? Do you keep your property presentable? Would you do your part if we went to war? These are just a few of the things that demonstrate your true patriotism.

Roz Chast’s take: