So. First: it’s been a busy week. Deadlines at work, stress keeping me from sleeping well, bad moods. I’ve neither been virtuous nor particularly well focused on being a good human being. I think we’ll call this week a practice round on Humility and try again next week, okay?
I have been thinking about it, about humility this week. Franklin took the virtue his thirteen in the advice of friends.
…a Quaker friend having kindly informed me that I was generally thought proud; that my pride show’d itself frequently in conversation; that I was not content with being in the right when discussing any point, but was overbearing, and rather insolent…
An act of humility itself to recognize that particular failing and kind of amusing that it fell to the end of the list. The scheme of it all suggested that the previous virtues were supposed to inform subsequent virtues, that building the previous would help the others. I wonder if adding it to the end was an act of contrition to his friend or an acknowledgement that this would be the hardest of them all to acquire.
I cannot boast of much success in acquiring the reality of this virtue, but I had a good deal with regard to the appearance of it.
This raises an interesting question. If you appear a virtuous person, is that success? Regarding Franklin’s semi-acquisition of humility, it seems like it is success. It is human nature to have the emotional response to stimulus but it is the mature person who does not act upon it.
When another asserted something that I thought an error, I deny’d myself the pleasure of contradicting him abruptly, and of showing immediately some absurdity in his proposition; and in answering I began by observing that in certain cases or circumstances his opinion would be right, but in the present case there appear’d or seem’d to me some difference, etc.
Franklin would still hold his belief he just would present his counter example with acknowledgement that the other person may well be right. Is that humility or is that justice? I suppose it depends if you believe that in conversation, you should assume the other person is deserving of space to talk. Franklin, likely being among the smartest people alive at the time, may not have thought so.
In the same chapter of his biography from which the above is excerpted, Franklin describe some methods, phrases in particular, he used to appear more humble in conversation. He would lead a reply with “I conceive, I apprehend, or I imagine” rather than ascribe complete certainty to his own correctness.
You can be right and know it without losing humility. Humility is understanding that others may have valid and right knowledge. Humility is recognizing there is value outside yourself.