Virtue and Balance: Personal, Interpersonal, and Societal Implications
The action-drama film Divergent, based on the best-selling book series by Veronica Roth, depicts a dystopian society divided by virtues and explores important questions on individual, interpersonal, and societal levels, such as the following.
- Individual level: Are we all divergent? In other words, do we all express a strong constellation of many virtues and character strengths, or do we mostly tend to express one in particular? In what situations do we commonly overuse these strengths?
- Interpersonal level: How do we relate to people who strongly express a virtue different from our own (e.g., wisdom versus courage; temperance versus justice)? Can the expression of one virtue collide with the expression of another?
- Societal level: What is the role of virtue in society? What are the limits of virtue? Can society have too much courage, too much justice, too much knowledge? Are virtues the key element of a utopian society?
Whether you’ve seen the film or not, consider these questions and offer your observations and opinions on whichever cluster strikes you most.
In my PsycCRITIQUES review of the film, I chose to focus on the first cluster of questions and delve into the concept of "overuse" of virtue or character strengths. Hearkening back to ideas first opined by Aristotle, all of us are vulnerable to bringing forth our strengths and virtues too strongly (e.g., being too honest, attempting to offer too much wise advice, being too curious, and so on). The science of positive psychology is investigating these areas more closely and is finding that great importance might be placed on finding balance with our virtue and character strength expression. What do you think?
By Ryan M. Niemiec
PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(33)