A Self-made Man
Benjamin Franklin is the quintessential “self-made man.” He was a successful inventor, scientist, musician, and author. In his spare time, he helped found a country and then serve as her diplomat. Not bad for a kid who was born into a poor family and only receiving two years of formal schooling.
The key to Franklin’s success was his drive to constantly improve himself and accomplish his ambitions. Early on in his life, Ben Franklin set a goal: to attain moral perfection. In order to accomplish his goal, Franklin developed a personal improvement program that consisted of living 13 virtues. These are the virtues in his own words
- “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 employed 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, cloths, 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”
In order to keep track of these virtues, Franklin carried around a small book of 13 charts. The charts consisted of a column for each day of the week and 13 rows marked with the first letter of his 13 virtues. Franklin evaluated himself at the end of each day by placing a dot next to each virtue that he had violated. The goal was to minimize the number of marks.
Franklin would focus on one virtue per week by placing that virtue at the top of that week’s chart and including a short definition to explain its meaning. After 13 weeks he moved through all 13 virtues and then would start the process over again. When Franklin first started out on his program, he found himself putting marks in the book more than he wanted to. But as time went by, he saw the marks diminish.
Franklin never accomplished his goal of moral perfection. Like all of us, he had his flaws. Franklin found it most difficult to implement the principle of Order. To combat this, he created a daily schedule for himself. In the morning he would ask himself a simple question: “What good shall I do this day?” This question guided him on his virtuous quest while going through his daily schedule. At the end of the day, he would ask himself a similar question: “What good have I done today?” Franklin examined how he had spent his hours and whether he had done the good deeds he planned on doing, as well as if he had taken opportunities to help others.
The definition of the word Christian is “Christ-like.” This means we should strive for moral perfection as Benjamin Franklin did. I urge you, fellow Christians, to take this concept of self-examination and self- improvement that was laid out by our founding father and apply it in your life with Christ. Before you leave your home ask yourself “What good shall I do today?” or “What shall I do to further the Kingdom?” At the end of the day reflect deeply on what you have done throughout the day. Take specific Biblical virtues, study them, understand what they mean and focus on their applications. Maybe even create a physical chart similar to Franklin’s. Although you could use Franklin’s virtues that he lays out in his chart, I will turn you to a good starting point that was set by the Holy Spirit.
“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-8 NKJV)