The Season on Cultivation
In order to make ourselves and our world better, we need to develop our skill at the art of living. During these ten weeks, we think about the concepts and competencies which help us live well – primarily in terms of virtue. We seek to build up our characters and cultivate habits which over time produce human flourishing.
In thinking about virtue, we follow the research of (among others) two modern psychologists, Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman. We take our structure from their classification of the virtues and many of our resources from the VIA Institute on Character which continues that work. Peterson and Seligman enumerate six main virtues – wisdom, courage, justice, humanity, temperance, and transcendence – with multiple sub-virtues belonging to each one (they call these character strengths).
You can test your own character strengths on the VIA website.
Week 4 – Temperance
“Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past” – attributed to Lily Tomlin
In Peterson and Seligman’s classification, temperance is excellence in self-control. It protects us against various excesses which can undermine our lives. Being temperate entails being forgiving, humble, prudent, and being able to regulate yourself. We will explore each of these aspects as we return to this week year after year.
This year we focus our observance on forgiveness and cultivate our ability to manage our anger. We seek to avoid the corrupting influence of hatred and to accept others’ shortcomings. We also pay attention to the excesses of forgiveness. We chart a middle course between being pushovers and being merciless.
[Peterson, Christopher, and Martin E. P. Seligman. Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2004. Print.]
● Take a look at this helpful primer from PBS’s “This Emotional Life” to learn more about forgiveness – what it is, what it isn’t, its benefits, etc.
● Read this article about how to practice appropriate self-forgiveness without falling into unhealthy permissiveness.
● If you are angry with someone, assess whether that feeling is hurting you more than the offender (surprise – it almost always does). Identify how that grudge makes you feel.
● Then, forgive that someone. Do it. Let go. Take a look at the second part of the PBS primer on forgiveness for tips on how to forgive.
● Watch “Beyond Right and Wrong: Stories of Justice and Forgiveness,” and hear inspiring stories of forgiveness and healing from people on both sides of some of the most violent conflicts in the world.
● Take this quiz to test your forgiveness.
● Try one of these other fantastic activities from the VIA Institute, including movies to watch and ideas for ways to cultivate your forgiveness.
● Meet with someone who has wronged you (or with whom you are in some kind of conflict) and try to effect a reconciliation.
● Donate to The Forgiveness Project, a British organization which promotes reconciliation between the victims and the perpetrators of crime and violence.
● Encourage others to develop their own forgiveness. Take a look at the third part of the PBS primer for helpful suggestions about how to do that. You can also refer to the VIA list of activities, but think about how you could facilitate those experiences for others.
Have other ideas for how to observe Temperance Week? Comment and let us know!