“It’s always a mistake to try for universal approbation,
universal approval, because if you fear making anyone
mad, then you ultimately probe for the lowest
common denominator of human achievement.”
—Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States
There’s much truth in Carter’s adage. Indeed, he ably identifies a vice—spinelessness—that lurks on one shoulder of the virtuous middle way. But there’s another vice, equally dangerous, lurking on the other side of the straight and narrow path: namely, willful meanness. Just as a well-meaning desire to please can easily become little more than a fig leaf, used to conceal cowardice, a well-meaning desire to be honest—and “tell it like it is”—can easily become little more than a convenient rationalization, used to condone cruelty, and justify a despicable desire to hurt and humiliate others.
This is, incidentally, yet another reason why Aristotle’s tripartite model (vice—virtue—vice) is so much more useful than the dualistic Judeo-Christian model (vice—virtue), which, often simply by virtue of its conceptual structure, promotes the idea that the further one gets away from a vice, the closer one gets to a virtue. In fact, the opposite of a vice is usually just another vice. Vices cling to the extremes, more often than not. By contrast, virtue is almost always a function of balance.
—John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2015)