Maybe you’ve heard of this phrase before. It’s called Virtue Signaling. It’s the conspicuous (standing out as to be clearly visible) expression of moral values. Virtue is behavior showing high moral standards. This could look like many things such as:
- A failure to act in a way that aligns with your stated virtuous beliefs.
- The purchase of products that signal a virtue of care for the environment out of a desire for social status.
- Speaking out loud about issues in conversation or social media without actually doing anything about it.
- A feeling that one’s belief, actions or affiliations are superior to others.
- Support for radical ideas or movements simple because they are hip or fashionable at the moment.
- To appear to be socially responsible out of maintaining an image or brand rather than making transformed changes.
- Political correctness.
- Groupthink: adhering to the ‘accepted’ opinions or practices of a group without challenge or open communication.
- Saying what you know others will smile upon rather than saying what you truly feel or think.
- Tribalism: formation of group loyalties based on common trait, past, experience, or way of thinking.
Let’s notice something about all these examples I’ve pulled from the Internet and other various sources:
They all are meant to elevate the person giving the signal while making others feel morally inferior. At the same time, the HEART behind the one giving the virtue signal often doesn’t match the signal. In other words, we give signals to gain approval of others, to gain status, to gain standing and reputation, and to display our good morals in an effort to get others to gaze at us with awe and wonder. We may even give signals to shame others to do the very things that our hearts actually don’t really care about.
We only do it, on top of the above stated reasons, because others are doing it, we don’t want to ‘not fit in’, we don’t want to betray out loyalty to our group for fear of being marginalized, and we certainly want others to think we’re living the goodm virtuous life. At the heart of virtue signaling is a means to an end. We give signals to gain something. Sounds an awful like works-righteousness, right? Well, that’s because it’s all in the same category…and it’s antithetical to the gospel of what Jesus has DONE for you on the cross. Virtue Signaling has ‘DO’ written all over it. It’s religious to it’s core and no race, gender, age, or group is exempt from it.
It also has condemnation written all over it to. Not only does virtue signaling subtlety condemn others but it’ll also eventually condemn the one giving the signal because it is strict and bent on observing the ‘law’ at all times for fear of being a hypocrite to the public eye. If anyone could actually be that perfect in adhering the law of choice, then what would be the need for Jesus and all the He did for us?
So you take more honors classes for the normal person. Yes, and?
So you eat only gluten-free products. Yes, and?
So you read five chapters a day in your Bible and you made it a point to tell us. Yes, and?
So you only drive electric cars. Yes, and?
So you talk about transforming the city. Yes, and? Are YOU doing what your talking?
Oh, the list can go on and on and on. But, make no mistake, we’re ALL guilty of it including the writer behind this post. However, we really do need to be aware of the dangers of virtue signaling and do what we can to balance grace and law, as well as authenticity and hypocrisy.
Christianity is about what was DONE verses what we must DO; however, there is a DO element to it but it springs from what was DONE as oppose to DOING in order for something to be DONE like forgiveness, etc.
Performancism is crushing. It’s crushing others under the weight of our unrealistic law expectations and it’s crushing for us when we finally realize we can’t uphold the standards we’re putting on others. One thing about the things we do is that it ought to be done out of love for God. When we do things out of a sincere love for God, we walk with others in their life patterns as oppose to talking down to others about their life patterns.
In short, let’s be careful in virtue signaling. The irony is that ONLY Christianity frees a person from it since all other worldviews and religions are built on performance. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone; not through works or performance. If Christ died for us while we were sinners and hostile to Him, why do we put different expectations on those around us. Again, there is a higher standard for those who profess belief in Christ but we strive for holiness out of love for God; not for it.