I have written several articles that mention virtues and chivalry for a modern gentleman but it occurs to me that I have yet to publish an article dedicated expressly to the topic of what virtues and a code of chivalry is. As many people are under the erroneous impression that chivalry is only a set of rules for how a man treats a woman it is probably worth being more clear on what is meant when I refer to such things.
I am an atheist. I was raised as a Lutheran but have abandoned superstitious ways of thinking about the world and my place within it in favor of a more objective, scientifically based one. Yet I still find value in these traditional ideas such as virtues and codes of chivalry, as I respect and acknowledge what these ideas produce in society is good for all. As atheism is not a moral philosophy in and of itself, I have needed to construct my own ethical code. After spending many years studying all major religions and looking for common threads between them I developed what I refer to as ‘Chivalric Humanism’. It is a philosophical code by which I live my life in accordance with traditional ideas through a lens of Humanist ideals. I believe my code is a relevant moral compass for the modern world and can be of assistance to others, which is why I am sharing it here in this article.
What is Chivalry and Virtues?
“Chivalry! – why, maiden, she is the nurse of pure and high affection – the stay of the oppressed, the redresser of grievances, the curb of the power of the tyrant – Nobility were but an empty name without her, and liberty finds the best protection in her lance and her sword.”—Walter Scott, Ivanhoe (1820)
Historically, the code of chivalry is a code of conduct followed by knights. Chivalry was an informal code practiced among historical knights, with some codes specifically tied to certain knightly orders. The specific codes each order followed sometimes differed between these groups of knights. For example The Latin Rule, a document of 72 clauses, outlined the regulations and prescribed the etiquette for members of the Knights Templars. Most codes of chivalry were very similar to each other and covered the same general ideas of what constituted honorable and noble behavior. Over generations as the social class of knight declined in influence these chivalrous ideals became the code of the remaining classes of nobility and trickle downed to lower social classes as the concept of a gentleman took shape.
Yet virtues are universal concepts appearing in every human culture. There are the well known cardinal virtues of Platonic thought, and the later seven heavenly virtues of Catholic Christianity that heavily influenced concepts of chivalry for European knights and stood in contrast to the seven deadly sins. Virtues even appear within other non-European cultures; there is for example the Eightfold Path of Buddhism and Confucianism also has a set of virtues, too. Every human culture has a set list of virtues that developed and date back to ancient human history; the periods of early civilization and tribalism.
Because the names we prescribe to virtues are labels of our own invention, many people dismiss these as nothing but noble lies; yet these concepts are universal to humans, appearing in every culture. My explanation for this occurrence is that humans naturally come up with labels for these qualities because our instincts tell us that these virtues define the quality of that which is ‘good’, for these are the personal qualities that made our ancestors’ tribes safer and more stable. The prosperity that many generations of humans gained when the members of their communities abided by these qualities have left us with an inherited genetic memory — that which we call ‘instinct’. This is not to suggest that our instincts are always correct but rather that those qualities which have allowed humans to build prosperous civilizations are essentially ‘good’ to us at an instinctual level. Our instincts do require us to learn good teachings in order to decipher correctly how to interpret our instincts, especially when we find ourselves in situations our ancestors never had to deal with (which many people encounter today on a daily basis in the modern world). In these new situations sometimes our instincts can be mistaken and that is why codes such as chivalry are so very useful; these codes seek to provide people with rules for how to behave in difficult situations that might trigger instincts that are not helpful (faults) while encouraging us toward instincts that are useful (virtues) for the present circumstances of the world we live in.
The code that I have devised for my own life path is what I call Chivalrous Humanism. It is intended to be a universal code of chivalry that anyone can subscribe to regardless of any other religious upbringing as it is not religion specific. I as an atheist designed it to be useful to myself and conform to the values I was taught as a child, which are those values which have been useful for me to acquire the success I have in life. Because I have strived to live my life by this code of my own making I have often found that people have given me aid when I had no entitlement to it, and these instances have made all the difference in times of crisis in my life. Yet I cannot promise you that everyone will cooperate with you just because you follow my code, for just as many people have turned their back on me when I would not be a participant to their evil.
What I can promise you is that I can live my life without any shame, guilt or regret from mistakes when I follow this code in my decision making, and when I start to stray from right action it is this code which brings me back to the proper path of chivalry. If you use this code as a compass to navigate your life you are unlikely to do evil and make the world a darker place than it already is; if anything if you follow this code you have a higher chance of making it a brighter one for the people whose lives you impact.
Why Are Codes of Chivalry Still Needed?
In order to understand how to improve ourselves we must be able to identify those aspects of our personality we can improve, but before even this we have to identify what are good and negative qualities in a person. This is the purpose of virtues. Virtues serve as some of the most important of rules for people; these rules being necessary because attempting to calculate the consequences of actions during the moment one needs to make decisions will frequently result in a person making hasty decisions that result in less than optimal courses of action being pursued. In summary it is difficult to remember the many specific rules of etiquette a person should abide by in order to be a good person, so simpler codes of conduct based around virtuous concepts developed.
Rather than memorizing hundreds of rules a person instead follows the principles of virtues that describe the type of character a person should strive for. The individual then has a very flexible rule structure that can accommodate many different kinds of scenarios. Essentially, by focusing on being a good person then the right actions will follow.
In this world people live their lives following many different ideals. The freedom for one to choose how they wish to live their life is a blessing, yet this freedom can often make it difficult to distinguish what moral qualities separate the good from the evil, and the righteous from the false. It is of my opinion that it is virtues that are the moral characteristics which distinguish respectable people from wicked folk. It is because of virtues that a society of people are able to live together peacefully, while those without virtue live in constant disdain and discomfort while labeled as violators of social contracts, and are distrusted.
Without even a code of conduct to follow people cannot maintain their relationships with each other and without these relationships the fabric of a society weakens. In order for society to grow and prosper all people must therefore grant each other a common base of consideration. The foundation for this mutual respect are the virtues, and although one person might gain a personal and temporary advantage by behaving unvirtuous, society as a whole will ultimately suffer when many people engage in these violations. Thus it is that when you advance yourself in virtue you also help advance humanity by performing acts that benefit humanity as a whole. It is only those who are willing to face their own faults and try to overcome them that will grow and gain the fruits of their labor.
It is not enough to simply read a blog post to acquire virtue, as true virtue is gained through experience and develops as a kind of skill to employ to right action. Yet it is still important that one study the principles and virtues here in order to understand what the virtues are defined as. A virtuous character is developed through habit; if you do the correct things again and again, eventually it will become part of your character to act in this way as a habit.
Four Positive Principles and Eight Virtues in Chivalric Humanism
The Four Positive Principles
In my experience there are “Four Positive Principles” that serve as the building blocks of right action.
These Principles are: Truth, Love, Courage and Wisdom. Although one may have an infinite amount of reasons to perform a positive action, such as those driven by charity or pity, the Four Principles will stand out as deciding factors in these decisions.
The Principles are;
The quality of acting in accordance with fact or reality.
The quality of having an intense feeling of deep affection.
The quality of a confident character who is not afraid or intimidated easily but without being incautious or inconsiderate.
The quality of having experience, knowledge and good judgment
All of the virtues can be built from these Four Positive Principles, and they can be combined in eight ways, which I call the “Eight Noble Virtues”. The Eight Noble Virtues are that which those who strive to build a peaceful and honorable society should erect their moral foundation upon.
Thus from the possibilities which spawned the Four Positive Principles of Truth, Love Courage and Wisdom come the Eight Noble Virtues of Loyalty, Altruism, Valor, Respect, Hope, Humility, Integrity and Duty.
The Eight Noble Virtues
Be faithful to your family, your friends, and your community.
The Principles of Truth and Love becomes Loyalty, for without honesty between people, how can we build the trust which is needed to maximize our successes?
Loyalty also flows from love. Love nurtures trust among people, creating bonds of friendship. Genuine loyalty is then only created after sharing hardships together, causing the bond to overflow with love and compassion. By contrast power that is unrestricted by bonds will often bring about great calamities, used carelessly without regard for others.
Being faithful is a matter of believing in and devoting yourself to something or someone. A loyal person is one who supports the leadership and stands up for their fellows. And by doing your share, you show your loyalty to your fellow man.
Likewise you should be loyal to your family and friends. You should be honest about your intentions with them, and remember that loyal service means telling hard truths. If they need assistance with some problem and are capable of helping, you demonstrate loyalty by doing so. Loyalty isn’t grey; it is black or white. You can’t be loyal only when it suits you. You are either completely loyal or not loyal at all.
“The scholar does not consider gold and jade to be precious treasures, but loyalty and good faith.”-Confucius
Be concerned for the suffering and misfortunes of others.
The Principles of Love and Wisdom becomes Altruism or selflessness, for at some time or another all of us will need to rely on the kindness of others, and compassion is most likely to be shown to those who have exhibited it themselves.
A benevolent person is ever mindful of those who are suffering and in distress. Beginning with empathy for others in distress, benevolence can be described as the correct use of your power to act for the good of the recipient. One must always be generous in so far as your resources allow; this unselfishness counters gluttony. It also makes the path of mercy easier to discern when a difficult decision of justice is required.
Altruism should not be confused for over-indulgence of another’s vices; providing alcohol and drugs to an addict does not make a person compassionate as this act is not a correct use of your resources for the good of the addict. The altruistic act would be to encourage someone with overcoming their addictions with support.
Selfless service is larger than just one person. In serving your country and your community, you are doing your duty loyally without thought of recognition or gain. The basic building block of selfless service is the commitment of each team member to go a little further, endure a little longer, and look a little closer to see how he or she can add to the effort.
A person should hold with conviction that with reason, an open exchange of ideas, good-will, and tolerance that progress can be made in building a better world for ourselves and others.
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”-Muhammad Ali
“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it.”-John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States
Be without fear in the face of adversity.
The Principles of Courage and Wisdom becomes Valor, for without valor people will never reach into the unknown or dare to tempt fate, and thus will never achieve their accomplishments.
Valor is not simply courage, but that strength of mind in regard to danger; it is that quality which enables a person to encounter danger with firmness, personal bravery, prowess and intrepidity. Valor carries a connotation of self-sacrifice in that you are being brave despite knowing you may fail but you are aware that it is more important that you try anyway.
Valor has long been associated with knighthood. With physical courage, it is a matter of enduring physical duress and at times risking personal safety. Facing moral fear or adversity may be a long, slow process of continuing forward on the right path, especially if taking those actions is not popular with others. You can build your personal courage by daily standing up for and acting upon the things that you know are honorable.
Now then, let us consider what is the difference between a hero and a coward? There isn’t much difference; inside they are alike. Both a hero and a coward can become afraid; they both fear dying and getting hurt. The difference between a hero and a coward is that what a hero does makes him a hero, and it is what the other doesn’t do that makes him a coward. There is no one who can know courage who has not first known fear. Yet it is weak to yield to fear and heroic to face danger without flinching. A coward runs away, while a hero steps forward. Our actions decide what side of the line we fall on.
True courage is found not only in facing death, but also in facing losing, ridicule or even admitting when one is in the wrong. True courage, then, is never allowing your desires to cause you to sacrifice the smallest amount of your honor to win through cheating, and to accept an honorable, if disappointing, defeat rather than take a glorious, but tainted victory.
It is expected that a a valorous person has the compassion to not be a bully and the courage to not be a bystander.
“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.”– John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States
“Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.”-W. Clement Stone, businessman and philanthropist
“Courage is what preserves our liberty, safety, life and our homes and our parents; our country and children. Courage comprises all things.”Titus Maccius Plautus, Roman playright c 254 to 184 BCE
“The secret of happiness is freedom, and the secret of freedom, courage.”–Thucydies (B.C. 460-400)
Treat others with dignity and courtesy while expecting others to do the same.
The Principle of Love and the Principle of Courage give us Respect, for people who care for each other will be willing to make personal sacrifices to help each other in need. Deeds which one day you may need returned to you, or which surpass our own needs because they serve a greater purpose.
Respect is what allows us to appreciate the best in other people. Respect allows us to acknowledge the inherent value in other people and their worth. Respect is trusting that people have done their jobs and fulfilled their duty. And self-respect results from knowing you have put forth your best effort. Respect is knowing that within a group each of us has something to contribute.
Respect is also having a temperament attitude towards the usage of resources, whether natural occurring or man-made. To be wasteful of resources is a disservice to others who also need access to those items, and shows them disrespect.
Respect is also benevolence of the strong toward the weak. Bullying is not appropriate and has no place in the civilized world. Not everyone can walk at the same pace as another, and needs to be supported on how to become stronger. Respect requires breaking a hard truth gracefully to someone and offer criticism to others in a way that is constructive rather than spirit crushing. Your measure as a moral person can be determined by how you treat those who can do nothing for or against you.
Acts of courtesy should be the result of your consideration for the feelings of others. It should not be a result of fear for offending good taste or convention. The more it is practiced, the greater becomes your consideration for others and your understanding of other people’s points of view.
There are two great threats to courtesy. These are thoughtlessness and one’s reaction to discourtesy, real or perceived. Guard well against making speech without prior thought to the impact of your words on others, for it is far too easy to give offense with a careless word. This is not a difficult problem to overcome; it takes only a little consideration for others. The true test of courtesy comes in attempting courtesy in the face of discourtesy. Remember that someone else’s poor behavior is no reason for you to respond in kind. To do so would only reduce your own virtue.
Try to see instances of discourtesy, rather than as an attack to be angered by, instead as an opportunity to test and show your virtue. He who successfully shows grace under pressure of courtesy in the face of discourtesy is truly honorable.
“It’s easy to do anything in victory. It’s in defeat that a man reveals himself.”-Floyd Patterson
“I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.”-Albert Einstein
Possess an optimistic attitude, no matter the challenges you face.
By combining the Principles of Truth, Love and Courage, the virtue of Hope is created; the virtue that causes one to possess an optimistic attitude, no matter the challenges you face.
Hope, sometimes also known as perseverance, is the moral strength which enables people to endure the inevitable hardships they encounter, never allowing themselves to be side-tracked from success. Perseverance is the skeleton key to all kinds of success in life.
To be hopeful is to be determined to accomplish your goals regardless of obstacles. It is to seek excellence in all endeavors you undertake, not just those regarding your duties in your daily job. It is also to seek out strength to be used in the service of the greater good, rather than to be used merely for personal gain.
Hope is also to be self-reliant. Do not wait for someone else to do your job for you. Do not wait for the things you want in the world to be handed to you on a platter. This does not mean that you have to do something completely alone if you have no idea how to do it, or if you cannot do it. What it does mean is that you should learn things from life; learn how to solve common problems, and maybe learn a craft or two. Study books of knowledge so you can learn all you can about the world to help you in the future when that information may become incredibly vital to the survival of you or someone else.
A hopeful person will remain firm in the belief that things will get better. You should believe that collectively the human capacity for goodness will always overcome the capacity for evil. If we lose faith in this then we no longer have the grounds for hope.
It is a hopeful person’s duty to be a strong pillar in times of tragedy. Hope is the shining armour that shields a person from despair and inspires others to follow suit.
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”-Desmond Tutu
“Courage is like love: it must have hope for nourishment.”– Napoleon Bonaparte, quotes from “Maxims”
To recognize and accept your own shortcomings with grace.
The sixth Virtue is Humility, which flows from the Principles of Truth and Wisdom. To be humble is to safeguard against being prideful, which leads to arrogance, which causes one to disregard the consequences that one’s actions have on other people.
Because humility is not flashy and requires a person to accept things they may not enjoy about themselves, as a virtue it is often overlooked but no other virtue is of any assistance when you must hold-fast against vanity. Although we can never completely eliminate our inherent capacity for vanity we can hold it at bay by wielding humility with sincerity. For used sincerely humility refuses the comforts of praise, keeps you listening to the quiet whisperings of truth and confers a measure of grace.
Sincerity is the key to humility. Humility that is play-acted, even if you yourself are the audience, is powerless; indeed it becomes a weapon of vainglory rather than being used against it. To seek sincerity requires the onerous duty of peering inside you to see both the light and the darkness; the good and the bad, the excellent and the poor. To accept these things as truths is a daunting, yet noble task. Once the truth is seen, one has the further duty to seek to improve those virtues in which he is lacking. It is the attempt to work towards the ideal of humility that makes one humble; there will never be one who reaches the ideal, and yet this virtue may be gained even though the ideal itself remains unreachable.
How is this accomplished? By avoiding the comfort awarded by praise. Should you strive to behave honorably, you will in due course earn honor and praise from those who see you as virtuous. And yet you must avoid placing too much weight on this praise, even if it is purchased on the authority of your own integrity. Vanity is too clever for that; it can easily overtake you. As soon as you are comfortable that you are a virtuous person who has acted with righteousness, you are as vulnerable as a babe to vanity’s jaded charms.
“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.”― Mahatma Gandhi
“On the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom.”-Michel de Montaigne
“Do not seek after the sages of the past. Seek what they sought.”Matsuo Bashō, Edo period Japanese poet
Do what is right, morally and legally.
By combining the Principles of Truth, Wisdom and Courage we find the virtue of Integrity.
Integrity is a quality you develop by adhering to moral principles. It requires that you do and say nothing that deceives those who have your trust, and defend the weak and the helpless. When actions do not follow words, there can be little trust. As your integrity grows, so does the trust others place in you. The more choices you make based on integrity, the more this highly prized value will affect your relationships with family and friends, and, finally, the fundamental acceptance of yourself.
An integrous person should have an interest in securing justice and fairness in society and in eliminating discrimination and intolerance. You must possess a sense of stewardship of humanity’s future and unfeigned love for people. A man should be as good as his word and a handshake.
It is to be mentioned that deception has a place in warfare. It is necessary for a military commander to achieve strategic and tactical advantages through surprise in order to serve the greater good of victory. In private conduct one never has permission to be deceptive between those of good faith, but in matters of life and death some amount of deception is permissible in order to serve goodness. The ultimate aim of war is to achieve peace, and this must be remembered.
“When I tell the truth, it is not for the sake of convincing those who do not know it, but for the sake of defending those that do.”-William Blake
“The first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself. Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.”-Nelson Mandela
Fulfil your obligations to humanity.
Duty stems from all of the Principles; Wisdom because it requires a person to carefully consider the consequences of their actions; Courage because serving often requires a person to stand against doubts and fears; Truth because Duty must always be guided by it; and Love for humankind.
Based on the social contract you have with superiors such as teachers and managers, it is your duty to obey their instructions, but doing your duty means more than carrying out your assigned tasks. Duty means being able to accomplish tasks as part of a team. You fulfill your obligations as a part of your team every time you resist the temptation to take “shortcuts” that might undermine the integrity of the final product of the team.
A person should have an interest in securing justice and fairness in society and in eliminating discrimination and intolerance. You must also possess a sense of stewardship of humanity’s future and unfeigned love for people.
Furthermore, as a dutiful person you should have a commitment to the use of critical reason, factual evidence and scientific method of inquiry in seeking solutions to problems and answers to important questions. You should be committed to making your life meaningful through better understanding of human history, intellectual and artistic achievements, and the outlooks of those who differ from yourself. You should be concerned with the fulfillment, growth and creativity of both individual people and humankind in general.
“Not for ourselves alone are we born.”– Marcus Tullius Cicero
“Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”– John Stuart Mill
“What matters is the countless small deeds of unknown people, who lay the basis for the significant events that enter history.”-Howard Zinn
What is Honor?
A person who lives by these core values is an honorable person. Honor is essentially the combined traits of a person who follows the Eight Virtues. Honor is what is achieved by living up to the ideals and pursuing the qualities and behavior listed above.
The honor of a gentleman is a sacred thing, and cannot be lightly set aside or trampled on. A gentleman develops the habit of being honorable, and solidifies that habit with every choice of value they make. Honor is a matter of carrying out, acting, and living the values of Loyalty, Altruism, Valor, Respect, Hope, Humility, Integrity and Duty in everything you do.
“A moral change still depends on the individual and not on the passage of any law.”-Eleanor Roosevelt
“This is a subtle truth. Whatever you love, you are.”Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, 13th century Persian poet
The Four Negative Principles and Eight Faults to Avoid
“An evil cause produces an evil effect; Sow evil and reap evil.”-Buddhist saying
Just as there are Positive Principles and Virtues, there are opposites. These are the Four Negative Principles and Eight Faults.
The Eight Faults are the shadows of the Eight Virtues, for they are corrupted versions of the Virtues. Faults are those qualities which, left unchecked and unopposed in the heart, set a person toward a path of doing evil.
The Four Negative Principles are the antithesis to the Four Positive Principles:
The Negative Principle of Falsehood is opposite to the Positive Principle of Truth.
Falsehood is the quality of fabricating information to appear true. Falsehood obscures truth and makes it difficult for others to make objective, good decisions.
The Negative Principle of Hatred is opposite to the Positive Principle of Love.
Hatred is an intense dislike for someone or something. While it is always necessary to stand firmly against evil things a person must not succumb to hatred because it blinds us from objectivity and encourages us to do needless harm.
The Negative Principle of Cowardice is opposite to the Positive Principle of Courage.
Cowardice is different from Fear. Fear is natural and sometimes useful; but cowardice is to give in to fear at the expense of what is known to be morally right because you are unwilling to become courageous.
The Negative Principle of Ignorance is opposite to the Positive Principle of Wisdom.
Ignorance is the state of lacking knowledge. While all people are born ignorant, part of the noble purpose of life is to overcome ignorance through the pursuit of wisdom.
The Eight Faults to Avoid
The Eight Faults are the opposite of the Eight Noble Virtues. They are faults, not vices or sins, because it is the nature of humans to make mistakes. These are things all humans will feel at one time or another; yet by acknowledging these faults in our thoughts and actions we can learn to realize our drawbacks. Only after this can we then work to improve those aspects of ourselves which are in need of bolstering, transforming a fault within ourselves into a virtue.
The Negative Principles of Falsehood and Hatred becomes the Fault of Treachery, the anti-Loyalty. Treachery leads people to betray their friends and family so they can be oppressed for the benefit of the traitor. Betrayal is the breaking or violation of a contract, trust, or confidence. Treachery is the opposite of Loyalty and creates unnecessary conflict within a relationship amongst individuals, between organizations or between individuals and organizations.
“He who throws away a friend is as bad as he who throws away his life.”-Sophocles
The Negative Principles of Ignorance and Hatred becomes the Fault of Selfishness, the anti-Altruism. Selfishness is being concerned excessively or exclusively, for oneself or one’s own advantage, pleasure, or welfare, regardless of others. Selfishness often leads to cruel behavior, such as to enjoy causing the pain and suffering of others. When one hates and is narcissistic they often begin to think pleasantly of any manner of ill omen coming upon their enemies and this masochism is cruelty. Selfishness is based on ignorance of how a person should act for the benefit of humankind.
Selfness often causes a person to become loathsome, developing a contempt of others for what perceived advantages they have while we perceive ourselves as being less fortunate. Loathing is a form of self-pity. It is an attempt to tear down others’ fortunes because of our misfortunes and attempt to make them suffer because we suffer. This is a terrible thing to do.
“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”-Martin Luther King Jr.
“People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing.”— Will Rogers
The Negative Principles of Ignorance and Cowardice becomes the Fault of Greed, for those who are without Valor live in fear, desiring power in order to compensate for their perceived insufficiencies. Yet Greed is also built on ignorance because power cannot compensate for personal defects of character such as a lack of valor.
“So the unwanting soul sees what’s hidden, and the ever-wanting soul sees only what it wants.”― Lao Tzu
The Negative Principles of Hatred and Cowardice become the Fault of Disrespect, which makes a person disregard the affairs of anyone else, even if they are loyal to you. If you make no attempt to respect others they will not attempt to respect you for you have shown hostilities toward them which they find uncivil. Disrespect results in unnecessary fights to occur, which may result in either parties suffering, or even resulting in untimely death of the participants. Thus it is that to disrespect others is to invite conflict.
“Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.”-Eric Hoffer
The Negative Principles of Cowardice, Hatred and Falsehood become the Fault of Despair, which is born from the death of Hope. Despair is very self-destructive and can lead to self-doubt and hesitation when faced with important matters that result in tragedies for ourselves and others. To not act because we are afraid yet lie to ourselves about being afraid, this is what despair is. Despair can even cause a person to lose the will to live.
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”—Marcus Aurelius
The Negative Principles of Falsehood and Ignorance is the Fault of Vanity, which brings about arrogance and the delusion that others are not as worthy of comforts and happiness as you. If you cannot look at others as being equally worthy of courtesy and value then you will not treat them properly as they should be treated; therefore you will disrespect them. That is to be conceited, so Vanity is the opposite of Humility.
“Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”― Jane Austen
The Negative Principles of Falsehood, Ignorance, and Cowardice creates the Fault of Dishonesty, which is the opposite of Integrity and caused by intentional spreading of a Falsehood. Dishonesty is born from fears that one cannot succeed in goals through honest means. Sometimes we are also dishonest with ourselves and fabricate a belief as a means to avoid confronting a disappointing truth.
“Whoever is detected in a shameful fraud is ever after not believed even if they speak the truth.”-Plato
Lastly, the Fault of Recklessness is the opposite of Duty, and stems from all of the Negative Principles: Ignorance for it is based in not thinking carefully about the consequences of one’s actions; Falsehood because reckless actions ignore the reality of circumstances surrounding a situation; Cowardice because it is fear that drives a person to reckless action; and Hatred because it is anger that guides the reckless mind.
The Fault of Recklessness causes a person to be irresponsible and incapable of performing Duty on behalf of humankind.
“There are five dangerous faults which may affect a general:
(1) Recklessness, which leads to destruction;
(2) cowardice, which leads to capture;
(3) a hasty temper, which can be provoked by insults;
(4) a delicacy of honor which is sensitive to shame;
(5) over-solicitude for his men, which exposes him to worry and trouble.”― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Concluding Thoughts on Virtues, Faults and the Code of Chivalry
It is important to acknowledge that Virtues and Faults are found in all people, and they are the building blocks of our personality. As such a single individual may possess a mixture of these qualities at any one time that shapes their personality at the present moment.
It is critical to know that when you recognize a Fault in yourself you must work diligently to undo the cause of that Fault, which is by restraining the negative principles that created the Fault in the first place. Strive instead to do good by adhering to the principles of its opposite Virtue. Embracing a Virtue within your heart will restrain its corresponding Fault.