Benjamin Franklin’s Thirteen Virtues
Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding father’s of the United States of America, was by all accounts an amazing man. Called a Polymath, someone who excels at many things, he created the first public library, the first fire department in Pennsylvania, created bifocal glasses, the lightning rod, and studied electricity. He was quite a man, someone whose impact on the world is still felt very much today.
Few people know it, but Ben Franklin held himsef to a very strict set of moral guidelines to help him live his life. He tracked how successful he was in meeting these goals in a journal for much of his life.
- Temperance – Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
- Silence – Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
- Order – Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
- Resolution – Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
- Frugality – Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
- Industry – Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
- Sincerity – Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
- Justice – Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
- Moderation – Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
- Cleanliness – Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
- Tranquility – Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
- Chastity – Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dulness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
- Humility – Imitate Jesus and Socrates
It should be pointed out that these were ideals in Mr. Franklin’s life; virtues that he strove to have, but did not always successfully achieve. In fact, Mr. Franklin struggled with many of his own virtues – but he kept trying, and adapting. As he once wrote:
“My list of virtues contain’d at first but twelve; but a Quaker friend having kindly informed me that I was generally thought proud; that my pride show’d itself frequently in conversation; that I was not content with being in the right when discussing any point, but was overbearing, and rather insolent, of which he convinc’d me by mentioning several instances; I determined endeavouring to cure myself, if I could, of this vice or folly among the rest, and I added Humility to my list).”
Time and time again we see that the people that history talks about, the people that we hold in high esteem are generally not those people who lived their lives in a perfect way and never made an error. Rather, the people that history talks about the most are those who had wonderful ideas; ideals about how life should be lived, and then made an effort to live them.