Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Virtue to Vice?

A few years ago I read:
David McCullough, Biography,


One of the most interesting notions I read in this book was how John Adams referred to Thomas Jefferson's ambition as a weakness.  When I read that I was stunned.  I was stunned because I was in the midst of my own ambitious desires in my career.  I had never before that time thought that a trait that I viewed as a virtue could also be a vice.

But of course it makes sense that this is possible.  A trait such as ambition could become so consuming that a person might lose focus on his family or other virtuous traits, which could be detrimental to the health of the family and the individual.

Another virtuous trait that could become a vice is tolerance.  In the April, 2013 General Conference, Elder Boyd K. Packer said, "Tolerance is a virtue, but, like all virtues, when exaggerated it transforms itself into a vice."  Again, that notion that a virtue can become a vice.

I think that statement might be viewed by a great many as poor counsel and rather intolerant.  I first heard this counsel initially with a bit of an eye roll.  However, the more I ponder it, the more I see it as wise counsel.  I see it as counsel to hold on to my beliefs and to not let go of them just because they may not be popular.  After all, is it not intolerant of one person to suggest that another person is intolerant?

I will continue to strive to not judge (or be intolerant of) other people because they might sin differently than I do, of which I just blogged about.

Benjamin Franklin said "Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man." He even went so far as to create a program for himself to achieve moral perfection.  As I was researching this quest I ran into an old blog post of The Art of Manliness about this very topic that was written in 2008.  I was a little bummed at first when I saw this blog because I wouldn't be the first to write about it.  But of course I wouldn't be the first to write about it.  Benjamin Franklin was the first to write about this topic!

He chose thirteen virtues to try to perfect:

Benjamin Franklin Virtues, Thirteen Virtues, Temperance, Silence, Order, Resolution, Frugality, Industry, Sincerity, Justice, Moderation, Cleanliness, Tranquility, Chastity, Humility


 He embarked on this quest by creating a chart like the one below where it shows the days of the week (S,M,T,W,T,F,S) on the horizontal axis and the first letter of each virtue (T,S,O,R,F,I,S,J,M,C,T,C,H) on the vertical axis.  Then he would place a mark in the corresponding box when he failed a virtue.  He focused on one virtue each week.  His hope was to have a clean chart!
Benjamin Franklin Virtues, Thirteen Virtues, Temperance, Silence, Order, Resolution, Frugality, Industry, Sincerity, Justice, Moderation, Cleanliness, Tranquility, Chastity, Humility

Interestingly, I found the virtue of silence quite interesting. My mom has this on her fridge:

Think, True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, Kind, Think Before you Act

One way or another, it couldn't hurt to try to focus on our virtues and always be at war with our vices.  And to be weary of letting our virtues overrule our other traits or our families.



3 comments:

  1. All this talk about it being intolerant to call someone intolerant made me confused so I had to look up the definition of tolerant, which is: “Showing willingness to allow the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.”

    Based on this definition, I have decided that using the word “tolerant” does not make any sense unless it is associated with an opinion or action. For example, it doesn't make sense to say, “I am a tolerant person.” It DOES make sense, however, to say “I am tolerant of people who eat fish” or “I am intolerant of people driving too fast through my neighborhood.”

    SO, when Boyd K. Packer says, “Tolerance is a virtue, but, like all virtues, when exaggerated it transforms itself into a vice,” isn't he just saying that tolerance is a virtue if you are tolerating things that aren't bad, but tolerance becomes a vice when you are tolerating things that ARE bad? And if this is what he's saying, then wouldn't it be simpler to just say:

    “Good behaviors should exist and bad behaviors should not exist.” Not really so profound anymore...

    In my opinion, Packer was just trying to appease the minds of members who felt troubled at being labeled “intolerant” of … gay marriage, maybe? The word “intolerant” has such a negative sting to it (even though the word itself is meaningless unless associated with an action) that it could make a person feel better to label an opposing view as an “exaggeration” of tolerance.

    P.S. This post should not be taken as an implication of my support for the consumption of fish, as the world's fisheries are being harvested at unsustainable rates. :p

    P.P.S. It's good to have you back in the blogosphere. This is fun. I may start my own.

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    1. Also, I'm aware my reply completely ignores your main point about trying to focus on virtues and is all about the Packer quote. My apologies. :)

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    2. Awesome thoughts Nich! I really appreciate them. I could have delved deeper in my post about this subject but I just wanted to get my initial thoughts out there on it. I'm thinking this subject may be a life long thought process for me.

      Especially in my line of work I have to make judgements of people at first sight. But I think we humans do that more than we think too. It is our nature and part of our survival instincts too.

      Anyways thanks again Nich for reading and commenting!

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