VirtuesWe have divided Franklin's thirteen virtues and their principles into personal andsocial character traits.
PersonalThe eight personal virtues relate to your attitudes toward activities and their challenges. Good personal character traits will better your chances of success in achieving your goals.
Temperance: Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
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.
Moderation: Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
Industry: Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
SocialThese five social virtues that Franklin stated concern your attitudes toward people with whom you have dealings. Good social character traits result in other people wanting to do business with you or to have relationships with you.
Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
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.
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.
Franklin's applicationBen Franklin tried to live his life following these virtues, but he often failed.
Good intentionsFranklin placed each one of the virtues on a separate page in a small book that he kept with him for most of his life. He would evaluate his performance with regard to each of them on a daily basis. He would also select one of the virtues to focus on for a full week.
Franklin also often emphasized these virtues in his Poor Richard's Almanack.
Later, in a letter to his son William, Franklin listed the virtues and recommended that William follow them too.
RealityAlthough Franklin tried to follow the virtues himself, he sometimes strayed from his good intentions. For example, in his Almanack, Poor Richard (Franklin) gave this advice:
"Be temperate in wine, in eating, girls, and cloth, or the Gout will seize you and plague you both."Meanwhile, Franklin relished his food, womanized and sometimes dressed to impress people. His food and wine-drinking habits led him to be plagued with the gout for much of his life. But still, the positive intentions were there.
Following the guideThe thirteen virtues are a good guide for you to follow. In fact, keeping track of how well you do in maintaining the virtues and having positive character traits, as Franklin did, is worth trying.
You also need to realize that no one is perfect. For example, these thirteen virtues imply that you must be extremely diligent and hardworking. But remember the saying in Poor Richard's Almanack that "all work and no play make John a dull boy," so you can overdo things too.
The main idea is to follow the advice of Benjamin Franklin and try to be a person of good character.
SummaryWhen in his late 20s, Benjamin Franklin listed thirteen virtues that he felt were an important guide for living. These virtues can be divided into those related to personal behavior (temperance, order, resolution, frugality, moderation, industry, cleanliness, and tranquility) and those related to social character traits (sincerity, justice, silence, chastity, and humility).
Although Franklin tried to follow these guides in his life, he often went astray. These virtues may be worthwhile to consider following in your own life.
by Ron Kurtus (revised 7 February 2005)