I told my butler (who I call “James”—after all, English butlers are named James) that criticizing and complaining is a virtue. He looked at me disapprovingly, as if I’d said the moon is made of cheese. He said he did not think so; so, I explained.
I told him that nothing gets better until one criticizes or judges one’s self, another, or a thing. Complaining about something brings it to the fore, and if complained of in the right way and to the right person(s), improvement can occur. He frowned. He still was not convinced that it is a virtue, so I had to step back and identify what is a virtue.
I said “A virtue is not about faith, hope, charity, belief in god, or going to church on Sunday. A virtue is an action that leads toward something good, an improvement, a value.” He still looked at me quizzically.
So, I said, “Well, let’s take last year. You created some Christmas decorations for me in the home that was a value for us, wasn’t it?” He remembered it well because we both criticized and complained about them.
I continued, “This year you have already committed to making significant improvements in decorating the home for Christmas based on our criticism,” and he said, “Yes, that’s right.”
I asked, “In that case, was the criticism we had at the time a virtue? Did that bring about an improvement for this next year?”
He nodded. So, I said, “In that case, the criticism and the complaining led to something better—beautiful Christmas decorations.” And he said, “yeah.”
And I said, “That’s what a virtue does. It leads to something better. It leads to improvement. It leads to the good life. It leads to values.” Finally, he nodded with approval and enlightenment, and went off to make me tea.