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One of the most interesting things I heard the Ohio Counseling Association conference a couple of years back was something in the presentation on qualities of an effective counselor. The official title of the break-out session was: “Beyond Techniques: Understanding How Counselor Characteristics Impact Counseling Impact.” This was presented by Scott Hall PhD, LPCC-S and Michelle Flaum, EdD, PCC-S.

My favorite part of it was a Character Identity Inventory that looked at Cardinal Values, which are the values we strive to live out as counselors (and as human beings). These Cardinal Values have what the good doctors call Shadow Values. There are under-developed Shadow Values, which is what we commonly think of when we think about good/bad. Then there are over-developed Shadow Values, which totally made me think of the internet.

For example (and this is the version that made me think of the internet), Honesty is a Cardinal Value. Dishonesty is the underdeveloped Shadow Value. But the overdeveloped Shadow Value is Bluntness, Without Tact.

How many times have you watched Facebook go up in flames because someone is saying something extreme and hurtful and defending it by saying, “I’m just being honest!”

I am really intrigued by the idea of overdeveloped Cardinal Virtues because I think they may be the hardest to change. Moderation can be hard anywhere but on the internet sometimes it seems like rigidity reigns only sometimes it’s disguised as being truly free-thinking, truly brave, truly committed to a cause.

So how can we tell where we are on the continuum?

We can ask ourselves, “How does practicing the virtue help or harm you and your relationships?” And then sometimes we just need to get quit typing and come to bed already instead of trying to fix everyone else who lives in our computer.