I’ve been reading the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Among the books I’ve read it’s definitely one of my favorites. Not only do you get a sense of the history of the United States during the 1700’s but out of this time of struggle and formation you get a real role model. Besides his contributions to physics and science through his discoveries and theories regarding electricity he helped to form many public services such as a fire department, a university and libraries. Benjamin didn’t regularly attend Church services though he did believe in a deity and saw the need to formulate a system to develop his character. He also gave money to the Presbyterian Church even though he didn’t much care for the preaching. On one occasion he heard a sermon on Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (KJV). He was particularly disappointed that the preacher didn’t focus on using this verse to strengthen one’s character.
He came up with the following thirteen virtues:
- 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 extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
- Cleanliness Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
- Tranquillity Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
- Chastity Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.Humility.
- Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
He then set about at working on each of these virtues focusing on one each week for thirteen weeks and then staring the process over again. Each day he took time to examine his day and record if he had broken the virtue of the week in anyway.
I found his system of character building to be quite fascinating. Though I would encourage people to get connected to a good Bible preaching Church and more specifically a relationship with God through his Son Jesus who died for us because of our lack of character and tendency to sin, these virtues are all certainly consistent with God’s desire to develop us into virtuous men and women.
“Tho’ I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by the endeavour, a better and a happier man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it.“ – Benjamin Franklin
I found the following sites that talk about his thirteen virtues:
- ThirteenVirtues.com – online method of tracking your virtues
- DIY Planner – Downloadable PDF of Franklin’s virtue chart
- The Art of Manliness (a fantastic site)