Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 13, Q4
Humility: “Imitate Jesus and Socrates”
First, I’d like to thank you. Without you, I probably would not have stuck to my plan and spent a year documenting personal reflections. I’ve always looked forward to whatever feedback you could afford, and was heartened to learn that so many of you, at one time or another, were dealing with similar thoughts, issues, and reflections.
Second, this is the final post — if you can believe it — another year has quite literally flown by. With full honesty, I can say 2016 was a significant year in my life. The results of spending some time each week reflecting on actions, thoughts, virtues, have been profound. I may write about it in the future, but right now I feel like a new person — still making mistakes — but certainly walking on firmer ground. So again, thank you for helping me get here, and I hope that this little journey together has helped you in some way too.
All the best,
To be honest, when I first wrote about Humility, I was a little embarrassed to write, “Imitate Jesus and Socrates.” I guess that’s just a sign of the times, but over the course of the year, what I’ve been searching for, or what we define as happiness is, in essence, spirituality. Ben Franklin’s 13 virtues are not original; he, like every other self-help guru, borrowed heavily from religion. In Ben’s case it was Christianity. Personally, I’ve ignored Christianity for a long time. I prayed and attended mass and wakes, but those were passing motions; reading a book without understanding the words.
Deprivation tanks, mindfulness, meditation, being present, are not new concepts, not by a long-shot. There is a torrent in all of us, it has been recognized since the dawn of time. Today’s world does us no favors, and nor did it in antiquity. Sure the technology and stimulants have changed, but the fundamental concepts, mistakes, anxieties remain the same: children, family, security, work, life, sickness, death, etcetera. Then, as now, to weather any storm, one needed a strong foundation. Then, as now, the strongest foundation for humanity is virtue. This widely available secret is hidden in plain sight. The reason I had not seen it was twofold: 1) I had to want to change; and 2) I had to be willing to endure change. Maybe a third preceded the other two as well: I had to recognize that something was wrong.
Two years ago, despite huge positives in my life, I felt my life was a mess — specifically anger and unhappiness dominated a very sullen outlook. Bright happy sparks would often get overwhelmed by darkness. There were many parts to this darkness: age (goodbye youth), (im)maturity, alcohol, self-image, reality vs. self-image, personal failures. Behind a quick smile and easy laugh was a sadness that impacted my wife, my job, my life. It’s easy to see how people fall into substance abuse — it’s an easy way to cover the pain.
The good thing about pain was that it alerted me something was wrong, something needed to change. The change was slow, incremental, and small, tiny modifications became ingrained habit that over a period of 12-18 months paid profound dividends. Nothing is perfect, it never will be, but I’ve been humbled by this experience and will continue it humbly into the future. I have found true worth here.
I have not become evangelized, I am not here to convert, but to reflect, and when I reflect honestly about Humility specifically, and virtues generally I can’t help but come back to spirituality. I look at the happy people, the content people, those who are put to rest peacefully and with great love. They have religion in their lives, family in their lives, children, friends, love. Some of us stumble, some of us find the bottom, and when you do find bottom, when you are ready for change, if you are ready, Imitate Jesus, or Socrates or Buddha or whomever. The secret to happiness has long been discovered.