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Brother Franklin's Thirteen Virtues


Cover Photo courtesy of Wisdom In All Things blog

I recently sat in a Lodge meeting in a neighboring jurisdiction, where the members of the Lodge put together a program about Benjamin Franklin's 13 Virtues. 13 different Brothers each picked a Virtue, and had to present on it with a paper, story, or discussion topic related to that Virtue. After a great evening of very well presented topics, it got me to thinking about how important, and how still VERY relevant, these 13 Virtues are in today's World.


So what are the 13 Virtues? They are a list of 13 maxims, or ideas used to improve Benjamin Franklin's character, and ultimately make him a better man. He devised these 13 Virtues at the age of twenty, and devoted a major part of his autobiography to describing these Virtues, how they make you a better person, and how to lead a life as a better version of yourself than you did the day before.


He admitted to not being successful in living up to all these Virtues all of the time, and always stressed on working on these one at a time, akin to a process of self-mastery in each of these Virtues. It was meant to be a lifelong process, never complete, and always a challenge.


All these Virtues are noble, universal, and help to shape our inner Ashlars, and we would do well to follow them. In our current times of volatility in speech, disregard for the opinions of others, and an almost universal concept of self-entitlement, Franklin's 13 Virtues provide us a metric by which to gauge our behaviors, and determine whether or not we are living lives worth something more.


Without further ado, here there are, courtesy of 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, clothes, or habitation.

  • Tranquility. 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.


Temperance is a virtue that all Freemasons have heard before. It need not only apply to drink or food, but to any vice that consumes your will to control it.


Silence is a virtue that is all but lost in today's World. Rarely do people nowadays listen more than speak, and only by opening one's ears and closing one's mouth with more frequency can any civilized discourse be had. While speech is silver, silence will always be golden. And this Virtue does not say "never speak," it reminds us that when we do speak, it should be meaningful and with honor on our tongues.


Order is the battle to bring harmony to chaos. Those science nerds out there now that any static system will always naturally move towards a state of entropy (or disorder) but only by a guided hand can order be kept in any system. Whether that system is our desk at work, or the galaxies in interstellar space.


Resolution. Finish what you started, leave nothing half-complete, or partially-attained. The mind always yearns for completion, and leaving things undone or untried leaves space for doubt and despair.


Frugality. In an age of convenience, where anything and everything is but a fingertip away, it is difficult to practice this virtue, but when financial uncertainty comes (and it comes for all at some point), one must learn to be frugal and not wasteful with what we have.


Industry. Always be doing something useful; whether it is for the body, the mind, the pocketbook, or the soul. Be engaged in whatever activity you are are performing, and you will find reward in your effort.


Sincerity. This one ties back to Silence. When you speak, speak with honor and truth. Words can never be taken back, and words can be the most dangerous weapon of all.


Justice. This one means to act justly to everyone with whom you deal. Gone are the days of a handshake having any meaning between parties, and "squarely-dealing" with your fellow man is all but forgotten. Act justly, in your action, as well as your refrain from inaction.


Moderation in one's deeds, words, and thoughts will never be a harmful mantra to live by. Think about what you are about to say or do, and avoid extremes in action, behaviors, or emotions. The centered individual will rarely have to deal with the aftermath of actions or words taken too far.


Cleanliness is both a physical virtue, and a spiritual one as well. Keep you affairs in order, keep your area tidy, and it will translate to a more concerned manner of comportment. And not being a dirty-birdy will keep you healthier too.


Tranquility is grace under pressure or stress. Whether by accident or intent, if and when the bad things happen, acting like a maniac never solved anything. A serene disposition and a clear head always wins out over anger and intemperance, in any situation.


Chastity. As it aligns with many of the other Virtues, one should never have their reputation, health, or well being besmirched on account of a lack of chastity.


Humility. Benjamin Franklin says it best when he describes this Virtue: Act like Jesus or Socrates. Be humble in your success, as well as your failure. Humility can help us grow in charity, love, and care for all mankind. A little bit of humility goes a long way.


And there you have it, 13 Virtues written by one of our greatest Americans, as well as a profoundly erudite Freemason, written when he was the ripe-old age of 20. All of them are relevant, poignant, and serve to suppress the less-than-perfect aspects of our human nature. These 13 Virtues would serve us well in our modern time, and help us all break a bit of the "me-isms" that pervade our Society.


~~ FDTL ~~


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