Improving His Character

We read about John Adams last week, who was our second President. Benjamin Franklin was another Founding Father in the United States. In 1726 at the age of 20, he determined 13 character traits or virtues that he wanted to model his life after. He set about creating a daily and weekly system in order to improve his character.

1. Temperance

Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation. 

2. Silence

Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation. 

3. Order

Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time. 

4. Resolution

Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve. 

5. Frugality

Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing. 

6. Industry

Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions. 

7. Sincerity

Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly. 

8. Justice

Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty. 

9. Moderation

Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve. 

10. Cleanliness

Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation. 

11. Tranquility

Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable. 

12. Chastity

Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullnessdulness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation. 

13. Humility

Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Benjamin Franklin continues:

“My intention being to acquire the habitude of all these virtues, I judg’d it would be well not to distract my attention by attempting the whole at once, but to fix it on one of them at a time; and, when I should be master of that, then to proceed to another, and so on, till I should have gone thro’ the thirteen; and, as the previous acquisition of some might facilitate the acquisition of certain others, I arrang’d them with that view, as they stand above.”

There was a weekly calibration where after working on a different character trait he would decide if he was doing better or worse. He wrote, “I was surprised to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined; but I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish.”

I like Benjamin Franklin’s pattern. He made a list and worked on one a week for thirteen weeks and then he would start again. He was mindful and determined to become a better person in this way.

I posted here about Stephen R. Covey’s character traits’ list.

Nobody can build our child’s character strengths like we can. We are it. We can’t leave it all to our churches or schools to do it. That is how important we are in our child’s life.

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