Is Modesty a Virtue?

Is Modesty a Virtue?

“My dear Watson, I cannot agree with those who rank modesty among the virtues. To the logician all things should be seen exactly as they are, and to underestimate one’s self is as much a departure from truth as to exaggerate one’s own powers.”

— Sherlock Holmes

Sometimes I wonder whether I give myself due credit. While it can be said that I have failed in many areas, I should perhaps allow that in many ways I have done well. The concerning thing is that I cannot trust others to guide me in this respect.

I am convinced that the books that I read, and often the things that I have to say about them, are of excellent quality. Tonight I read from Plato’s Symposium. This morning I read from a book on American philosophy. The fact that some of my acquaintances have no interest in such things and may even consider my statements about them “pretentious” is troubling.

Should I continue to dumb down my speech, as I have since grade school, because others are somehow offended? Even in church as a teen-ager, I was criticized for being “stuck up” or acting like I was better than the girls in the youth group. (One of my friends says that I actually was better.) It is hard to please everyone.

Maybe I should continue to act dumb, or inadequate, around others. But I have my own criticisms about foolish and ignorant talk and behavior. The worst part is that I obviously make people uncomfortable sometimes. But being surrounded by shallow talk, annoying pop music, and base culture doesn’t put me in a good mood either.

Last week I went to a Maundy Thursday service in an Episcopal church in another city.The music was hauntingly beautiful. I was enraptured by the wonderful qualities of this high church music. I know what I like.

Recently I have been writing fascinating articles about the history of technology. I also want to write, about philosophy, the arts, ancient history, and politics. I have developed a repertoire of songs from The Great American Songbook, and I have been told my performances are “fantastic.” I have great analytical skills in the technical field. My talent and intelligence are noteworthy.

I am an excellent writer. I am a great singer. I care deeply about very important things. Why should I hide my candle under a bushel? I should see things exactly as they are. Why should I underestimate myself because of the foolish opinions of others?

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