Hello, gentlemen (and the occasional lady). A very good day to you all.
I had recently finished reading Mr. McKay's highly invigorating read on his seven part series on the history of honor, and how it applies to the modern day. Since reading the last installment of his series, I had a sort of reawakening; that even though cultural aspects have been relaxed in our great nation, and traditions largely ignored, that does not mean one has to give up hope. Quite the opposite, I'm please to say; now there is a purpose for all men to constantly fight for, and that is the idea of bringing back traditional concepts of honor and chivalry, in a dark, cynical, and oftentimes uncaring world.
This is no small feat, but at the same time, it is absolutely necessary to bring traditions back to the forefronts of our own lives. I do not mean to say that one must go out into the world, forcing traditional values on other people; all I am saying is that if one has the will to, in his own life, try to follow a stricter code of honor, one certainly can do that. I personally hope you, reader, do not think I am trying to force feed you my own beliefs; rather, I am offering you to look upon this new perspective, and to appreciate it for what it is. Whether or not you adopt some or all points made in this entry is not my concern.
In an attempt to learn how one becomes more honorable in his day to day life, I remember the Seven Heavenly Virtues, which is a Catholic tradition. Though the Seven Virtues have roots in Judeo-Christian tradition, I can easily believe that all people, regardless of a specific creed, may benefit from these moral dicta. I will briefly outline them below, in the format of its English name, its Latin name, and its basic summary.
The Seven Heavenly Virtues:
Chastity (Castitas)- Abstaining from lust and lustful acts, pursuit of courtly love and romantic friendship, cleanliness through good health and hygiene, purity, honesty, and betterment through education.
Temperance (Temperantia) - Self control, mindfulness of others, moderation of self-interest, justice and putting others before self. Restraint is the keystone of the Seven Virtues, of which no other virtue may be truly realized in its absence.
Charity (Caritas) - Generosity, charity, self-sacrifice, benevolence, and love.
Diligence (Industria) - Persistence, ethics, effort, tenacity, budgeting one's time and guarding against laziness or wastefulness of time. Most importantly, upholding one's convictions even when no one is seemingly present to witness otherwise; known as integrity.
Patience (Patientia) - Peace, mercy, meaning to do no harm, never resorting to violence except in the most extreme circumstances, forgiveness of the sins of others and of self, and never antagonizing or otherwise intentionally trespassing against fellow men.
Kindness (Humanitas) - Compassion, friendship, loyalty, empathy, trust without resentment or prejudice, unselfish love for the other person, positive outlook and cheerful demeanor, and inspiring kindness in others.
Humility (Humilitas) - Courage, modesty, reverence, selflessness, respecting others unconditionally. Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less. Being faithful to promises, big or small. Refraining from despair, and having the ability to confront fear or intimidation. The ability to undertake tasks that are menial or unglamorous with quiet graciousness. Reverence to God, to those who teach in love, and to those who have wisdom.
Whenever someone says something mean, remember the virtue Humilitas, and think less about the hurt that the insult gave, and more about the hidden pain and suffering in that person's life.
Whenever you walk out in public, you may choose not to completely ignore strangers, but give them a friendly smile and a simple “Good day to you,” because you keep in mind the virtue of Humanitas.
Whenever something is about to ignite your ire, remember to have Patientia, and to accept the circumstances as they are, for they can be nothing else than what they are already.
In your work, and in your daily life, try to eliminate idleness, to have the virtue of Industria as a constant motivation to do good work, and recognition that time is ultimately limited, and needs to be utilized to its fullest extent.
Whenever you interact with others, remember the virtue of Caritas, to have love for others, and to be generous with your care and attention to your fellow man.
Consider Temperantia, and limiting your own consumption to what you need, while trying to consider more about what others are in need of.
Consider also the dark possibility of appearing to be a good man, without actually being a good man. With this in mind, remember to have Castitas in your daily life; to be honest, with yourself, and with others. To have clean hygienic standards, in order to show respect to yourself and to the outside world. Most importantly, when concerning women, be with them because you love them, and care about their well-being, not because you lust after them.
This, gentlemen, is a code of conduct that one can use to maintain virtue in the day to day. Following a strict set of rules in an attempt to better oneself has its distinct benefits. I think Mr. McKay put it beautifully concerning rules to govern one's own behavior:
“The paradox of honor, and the constraints of any virtuous life, is that while the commitment to live with certain principles limits you in some ways, it also frees you in others. A man may willingly consent to and even impose on himself certain restrictions that he believes will actually lead to greater freedom and/or more opportunities. For example, a man may choose not to smoke, so that he can be free from addiction, and from that addiction dictating his choices.”
If you have your own method of trying to live life as honorably as you can, I encourage you to let us know. I am eager to learn more about each and every one of your own perspectives on what it truly means to be a good man.
Sean M. Bach
I'll weigh-in on the developing-courage-when-your-life-is-ordinary issue, because I've asked the same question. My context was vowed religious, claimed by the Church to be models of all virtue, including courage, but usually not demonstrating courage how we ordinarily think of it. Also, I take Aristotle's definition of courage, that it is the habit of standing in the face of terrible things. (standing, as opposed to running; and terrible, as in aweful, not just really bad)
My interlocutors came back with a few angles. One is that it takes courage to commit to certain "quiet" lifestyles, and that courage is there throughout the discernment process, not just at the moment of decision. Another is that "small" acts of charity can involve great courage - you don't know how the other will respond, you don't know if your efforts will work. There is also the fear that the "ordinary" life will be meaningless or forgotten.
William Bennett includes in the Courage chapter of "The Book of Virtues" the story of a bachelor who finds out his buddy has died suddenly, leaving a wife and several young children with no means of support. The bachelor marries the widow. It's certainly not our usual image of courage, but I think the story fits under Courage at least as much as under some other possibilities, such as Compassion or Diligence.