When Benjamin Franklin was just 20 years old, he devised a system to help develop his character. Franklin said “I conceived the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I wishd to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into.” Quite a bold project, at such a young age. When I think about my goals as a twenty-year-old, among other things they involved being famous and saving up for a really great snow cone machine. Moral perfection was definitely not on my radar.
But Benjamin Franklin was one of those rare geniuses who seem to come into the world with everything figured out, right? He was a diplomat, scientist, inventor, writer, author, artist, father of the lightning rod, bifocal lenses, Declaration of Independence, and basically created population studies (demography) in the United States. Also he was the first postmaster general of this country, has a posthumous membership to the International Swimming Hall of Fame AND he was a fashion icon in Paris, when he served as an ambassador to the country. Seriously, nothing would surprise me about this guy–he was just freakishly good.
Which is why paying attention to his methods of self-improvement might do us all some favors, starting with taking a close look at his virtue system.
At Ever Accountable we know that staying accountable means being virtuous. Virtuous is defined as “conforming to moral and ethical principles; morally excellent; upright.” The great thing about accountability is that we decide what our morals and ethical principles are–no one but us chooses what sort of human being we should be and it is that internal code that we conform to when we are fully accountable. A few synonyms for “virtuous” are noble, wholesome, honest, honorable, principled, effective, excellent, and without reproach. When pornography has taken over our minds, habits, and lives, we are not excellent and often not honorable.
Franklin’s system included a personal improvement chart with thirteen virtues chosen to help him reach his goals. Each week he would focus on one of the virtues and evaluate himself on his success with checkmarks on a little chart he carried with him. Franklin kept this going for quite a while and although he said he fell far short of “moral perfection,” he did have this to say about his experience: “I was, by the endeavor, a better and a happier man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it.” He proverbially shot for the moon and landed among the stars and was a better person for it.
Take a look at his virtues:
Franklin’s 13 Virtues
- 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 employ’d 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, clothes, 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.
Virtues Applied to Pornography Recovery
We can look to Franklin’s example in pornography recovery. Franklin was not traditionally educated and came from poverty but made himself one of the most influential, brilliant, and driven individuals in American history. He shows us that in the midst of ambiguity we can rise above by holding ourselves accountable to our own code of virtues. Tomorrow is always a new day, fresh from mistakes and setbacks.
Applying his code of virtues to pornography recovery is easy. Straight away I found these virtues relevant:
Lose no time; be always emptied in something useful; cut of all unnecessary actions
Do you think Franklin would have condoned porn as an industrious pastime? How much time does a person lose when they are preoccupied with pornography? My guess is any time spent looking at porn is wasted time.
Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
How many lives does a pornography habit hurt? Research shows that the pain extends beyond what your partner, child, husband, wife, feels. Pornography is intrinsically linked to human trafficking, prostitution, and sexual slavery. It is our duty as human beings to be just to one another and a pornography habit injures many people.
Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
Pornography is definitely an extreme. It is not natural, especially when consumed regularly.
Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
Intimacy is destroyed when one person habitually looks at pornography. Franklins advice reminds us of the importance of trust in sexual relationships. Pornography hurts our partners by bringing other people into our intimate lives–it injures their peace and our own reputation.
Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
This one is easy and the most important! We ought not to look at pornography for so many reasons. We must resolve to cut it out of our lives and perform without fail what we resolved.
I like Franklins idea of a chart to keep himself accountable. His method was a bit complicated, where he would focus on one virtue each week but rate his behavior as it related to all the virtues. If you want to try out Franklin’s exact method, check it out here and let us know how it goes!
However, I made a more simplified version which focuses on the five virtues outlined above. This chart starts on the first Sunday of July and goes through September. Simply mark your overall success with all five virtues in mind every day of the week. I’m thinking that a gold star (you know you want to buy that pack of foil star stickers) means “moral perfection,” or a job well done for that day, a silver means pretty freaking good, a green means so-so, and a red means you definitely need to be better.
I am also including a blank chart, in case you want to name your weekly charts whatever you want. The point is to have fun with this and gauge your own self-improvement.
Benjamin Franklin’s most powerful legacy is his example. Lets do what we ought and hold ourselves accountable to our behavior, choices, and struggles.