An Unsuspecting Lesson From Benjamin Franklin
As I’m reading Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography (for class, not pleasure) I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve actually been enjoying it. At first I was merely skimming the book, highlighting phrases I knew I would need to write the essay, but then I caught myself slowing down and actually absorbing Franklin’s words. When I came upon this list, I knew I had to share and I knew I could learn a lot from this historical and intriguing man that made his way from a newspaper editor and printer to a Founding Father of the United States.
Benjamin Franklin’s 13 Virtues
Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation
Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifiling conversation
Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have it’s time
Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve
Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e. waste nothing
Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions.
Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly
Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty
Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve
Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation
Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable
Rarely use venery but for health and offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation
Imitate Jesus or Socrates
Franklin composed these virtues at age 20 (in 1746) after studying different religions and philosophers and being bogged down by all the ways he was supposed to live his life. He took all he had learned and combined them into what he thought was the proper way to live and cultivate his character. He focused on a virtue a week and tried his hardest to work on that virtue, letting all other virtues happen that week by “ordinary chance”, and wrote down every day his transgressions against his weekly virtue. Keeping all of these records in a pocketbook kept on him at all times, he hoped to see on paper how his life was improving. He claimed living this way, consciously by his virtues, he lived a happier and more successful life.