Virtues and Sins part V: Humilitas vs. Superbia

“Pride makes us artificial, and humility makes us real”. (Thomas Merton)

It is ok to ask for help. True strength comes from the ability to admit ones weaknesses. According to the article “Interpersonal relations and group processes – Alone in the Crowd: The Structure and Spread of Loneliness in a Large Social Network” in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Cacioppo, J.T., Fowler, J.H., and Christiakis, N.A. 2009, Vol. 97, No. 6, 977-991, the discrepancy between an individual´s loneliness and the number of connections in a social network is well documented, yet little is known about the placement of loneliness within, or the spread of loneliness through, social networks.

Valtonen, J. (2011, Psykologia. Quoted 12.3.2014) states that loneliness weakens the immune system and increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer and mental illness. It is also contagious.

Valtonen writes: An American student, Kendall Palladino, traveled to Kolkata in order to work with Mother Teresa who he admired. Kendall insisted that he´d study to become a doctor as soon as he had graduated a priest in order to take care of leprosy patients in developing countries. Mother Teresa did not understand why. “Your home country is infected by the leprosy of the West”, Mother Teresa said, and continued: “Poverty and suffering much worse than in Kolkata”.

What Mother Teresa meant was loneliness. Palladino, later on, revealed publically that the appointment changed his life. He abandoned his dream about medical studies, and works today in the United States with terminal care patients, helping sick and lonely people.

Often we cannot see the wood for the trees.

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow-man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” (Ernest Hemingway)

Seven Virtues and Seven Deadly Sins Part I: Charity vs. Greed

According to cognitive psychologist George Miller´s theory from 1956, most adults have a short-term memory capacity of five to nine items, which makes number 7 magic (plus or minus two). Perhaps this is also one of the reasons for the classical seven virtues and seven deadly sins? People, on the average, have such a restricted short term memory that virtues and sins are easily mixed up? The truth must be much more complicated than this. I doubt that any human being is capable of explaining the complexity behind humanity in one simple sentence.

What are the seven virtues and the seven deadly sins? I wanted to discuss these in depth since the establishment of my leadership blog. It´s not that I would exactly be reinventing the wheel, since these were identified and discussed already by the Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato. Some things remain shooting stars, while others are always actual and important.

With Christmas approaching, charity and greed are probably the most relevant two to be discussed. We have yet another greedy (?) year almost behind us, whereby firms are soon about to close their books and in January, about to announce their fourth quarter results to shareholders and stakeholders. On the other hand, numerous organizations and NGO´s worldwide take action in order to collect money for various groups with one thing in common: the need of support and financial aid.

But what is greed exactly? Greed is a desire to possess, materialism of abstract value with a selfish intention, on a high level beyond the dictates of basic human needs such as shelter and food. It can also be interpreted as to having a high desire and pursuit of wealth, status, and power. Wikipedia´s explanation includes the fact that greed is “an inordinate desire to acquire or possess more than one needs”. Could it be explained more simply?

The negative aspect of greed is to deprive others of potential means, perhaps including  basic survival and comfort or future opportunities accordingly.

Charity, on the other hand, is giving alms, benevolence or generosity, being human and helping others without expecting anything in return. It is foremost helping those in need, but also helping and giving people around you (anyone), without expecting anything in return.

Unfortunately, the world is not equal, in many ways. There is nothing wrong with being successful and making money, but greediness is different. Charity is to help others with legally earned money and generated wealth. If, however, wealth has been earned in unethical ways, it is questionable how ethically and morally right it is to help others through illegal earnings.

Luckily, a large part of charity is generated through legal means.