It’s safe to say we’ve saved the toughest for last. Ben Franklin’s final of 13 virtues is quite bold.
As we unpack the idea, we’re bound to offend. We’re bound to stretch the limits. And, we’re sure, some will say we didn’t go far enough.
Perhaps… that’s exactly what the man intended when he wrote the simple line.
Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates
Ah, humility. Could there be a better subject to cover in our modern world? Perhaps we’ll brag about our musings on Facebook. Maybe we’ll post a selfie of us holding our book on Instagram.
Or, maybe, we’ll quietly do what we do and let the work speak for itself.
But this isn’t about us. We’re far too humble for that – at least that’s what we’re supposed to say.
As Franklin said, when it comes to modesty, there are just two folks we need to follow.
We’ll start with Jesus.
We could quote the Bible or go into a deep theological discussion, but that’s been done by folks far more schooled than us. Instead, we’ll simply scratch our head and wonder, what would Jesus do in these less-than-humble modern times?
In other words, what would Jesus’ Facebook page look like?
There’s no doubt, it could be quite a sight. Lavish dinners. Miracles. Hanging with celebrities.
After all, Jesus had some pretty strong Connections. He could have made everybody jealous of his lifestyle.
But we all know that’s not what would have happened.
The bible is filled with stories of Jesus riding lowly donkeys – the modern-day equivalent of an old Ford Pinto. It’s filled with tales of helping the sick and washing the feet of the poor.
And in a verse that tells us all we need to know, it quotes Jesus saying, “I do not receive glory from men.”
That’s strong. It’s certainly not good news for Facebook’s share price.
So, then, where are we to get our glory?
We’ll get there… but first Socrates.
We admire the man for many reasons. To our point this morning, though, we tip our hat in acknowledgement of Socrates’ great paradox.
That is… wisdom comes through recognizing our ignorance.
In his own words:
It seems that neither of us knows anything great, but he thinks he knows something when he does not, whereas when I do not know, neither do I think I know. So it seems I am wiser than he in this one small thing, that I do not think I know what I do not know.
They’re powerful words for our modern look-at-me culture.
This idea is why we focus so intently on Know-How. By learning, we don’t just pick up a skill. We pick up the understanding of just how much we don’t know.
It’s humbling… and it’s powerful.
It takes us back to the life-changing thread that weaves all of Franklin’s virtues together.
None of us are perfect. As we explored yesterday, Franklin often failed to live up to his own standards. He knew it, and he worked tireless to right his wrongs.
Franklin, we’ve found, wasn’t a particularly religious man – at least not in the context of blindly following the teachings of others. He observed the Sabbath, but he didn’t take the day to study the Bible. He studied himself.
He used the day to measure his standards and to mark his faults and successes. He contemplated himself versus his own morality.
That’s the key.
He didn’t spend his time comparing himself to his neighbors. He didn’t look at the size of their house, the breadth of their bank account or the beauty of his neighbor’s wife (okay, he likely did that on occasion).
Instead, he spent his time looking inward… working tireless to improve himself.
Answer this… In our world of social media and nonstop political commentary, how many times a day do you see folks griping about others? “They should have done this…” or “Why don’t they do that?”
It’s garbage. It’s a worthless, blame-others mentality.
As Franklin begs us in his final virtue, we mustn’t care about others. We’ll never be happy spying on the lives of our friends via Facebook. Instead, we must reflect on ourselves.
We must understand that we are all richly faulted.
None of us are perfect.
But happiness – true happiness – comes from humbly understanding who we are and who we want to be.