The lessons of courage: a message of Benjamin Franklin on living a virtuous life


When most people today hear the word «dignity», they are usually not associating it with the word «courage». Dignity and virtue are considered female traits. In fact, we sometimes use this word in modern slang to describe sexual behavior of women.

However, the concept of «dignity» away from the concept of «effeminate». The word «dignity» is actually embedded in the «courage». Cicero, a famous Roman statesman and orator, listed the advantages, which ideally should strive to have each person. This is justice, prudence, courage and temperance. To be considered a man of honor, a Roman had to have all these virtues. When Aristotle said about someone: «This person lives a virtuous life», — such words was a huge endorsement of human activities.

One person adopted a lifestyle of Aristotle: to be kind and to live with great diligence. It was Benjamin Franklin.

Franklin in search of moral perfection

Benjamin Franklin is an American legend. He single handily brought to life the idea of «the man who made himself». Despite the fact that he was not born in the most prosperous family and received only the biennial education, Franklin became a successful publisher, scientist, musician and author. He found himself in the service of his country and became a great President.

The key to success of Franklin is the constant desire to improve and to realize his ambitious plans. In 1726 at the age of 20, Ben Franklin set for himself the highest goal: the achievement of moral perfection.

To achieve his goal, Franklin developed itself in accordance with the program of personal improvement, which planned to develop 13 virtues.

«Moderation. Don’t eat too much before dullness, drink not drunk».

«Silence. Speak only what may benefit you and others. Avoid empty talk.»

«Okay. Let all things lie in his place; let each case be the time».

«Determination. Think what you want to do; do what you decided».

«Frugality. Save the money but to do something good to others or yourself, i.e. don’t waste anything».

«Performance. Do not waste time. Always be busy with something useful. Avoid useless activities.»

«Sincerity. Don’t lie; the thought innocently and justly and if you speak, speak accordingly.»

«Justice. Don’t hurt anybody and don’t avoid the benefits that you rely on the law».

«Self-restraint. Avoid extremes; do not respond to injury as rapidly as they seemingly deserve»

«Purity. Do not tolerate any impurity on the body or on clothing or in the dwelling».

«Peace of mind. Do not be concerned about trifles or accidents, which cannot be avoided».

«Chastity. To satisfy the lust for health and the continuation of the offspring, but not from boredom, weakness, not in order to ruin someone’s reputation or to disturb the peace».

«Humility. Be like Jesus and Socrates».

To help yourself in the difficult task of self-improvement, Franklin contributed a small notebook 13 charts. The chart consisted of columns for each day of the week and 13 rows specified the first letter of the names of his 13 virtues. Franklin evaluated himself at the end of each day. He would put a dot next to each virtue, which broke. The purpose of all this was to minimize the number of markers, and thus start a clean life, free from drawbacks.

Franklin each week was especially focused on one of the benefits of placing it on top of the chart of the respective week and making a Preface to explain its meaning. Every 13 weeks Ben equally honed their virtues.

When Franklin started the program, he noted in a notebook more violations than he did actually to try even more earnestly. But as time went on, he worked on himself and saw that the number of people thinned out significantly, and therefore, perfection is getting closer.

However, a friend of Franklin had become a model of moral perfection. He had the typical Americans are drawbacks (for example, a depravity, to which he gave another lack — the love of beer), but felt that they had benefited from attempts at self-improvement. Although it didn’t help.

How can we apply the message of Franklin on living a virtuous life?

In this article we want to revive the idea that there are many ways to be virtuous. We believe that old Ben Franklin can show you how to live a good (or suck) of his life.

If you next Monday suddenly decided to live a moral life, we suggest you highlight one of the advantages of Ben where you can focus your attention during the week. Find yourself a role model among famous historical figures and pulled practical lessons from their lives. When you learn the advantages of Franklin, add me some more.

Don’t forget to draw such a table on the computer or in a notebook, it’ll help you good.

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