Have you ever wanted to live ‘the good life’? Not just a good life, but rather, the good life? Well the crazy thing is that it is possible, it is actually within your grasp! I’m going to let you in on a little secret, there is a special word for this type of life – the good life – and it is a very old word, an ancient Greek word, and it helps us to understand how we might attain the good life. This word is:
This is a word that not many people know, but it is key to the good life. This word means ‘human flourishing’ – at least that’s the best translation that we could get in English.
The reason that this word is so important is because it is all about a way of life. A way of life that has this word as it’s goal. A way of life that has been embodied and lived out by many people over the last two-and-a-half millennia. This way of life sees, as the way to live this life of flourishing, not so much a list of rules, but rather a set of character traits, or virtues. The point of living this life is to cultivate these virtues in your life so that you will arrive at this way of living.
You will be someone who is able to live well, someone who is able to make the right choice in a given situation, someone who will know the right thing to say or not to say at a particular point in time. You will be someone who others look to in order to live the same sort of life.
This type of understanding the world is called ‘Virtue Ethics’.
How does this fit in to a Biblical framework? Well, we must understand that, while the Bible does give us some commands – love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your strength, and love your neighbour as yourself – it doesn’t really give us a specific set of instructions as to how to do that in each situation that we might encounter. It doesn’t tell us what it means to love our neighbour here in the 21st Century, it tells us to do it though. An understanding of what it means to be a loving person, – what love is – however, rather than a set of behaviours, will tell us what it means to love our neighbour in this day and age.
So what are the qualities, or virtues, that make up this good life? What are the ways of being that will lead us to Eudaimonia? They have traditionally been listed in two categories:
Theological virtues – those which are given to us by God upon our salvation and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit:
The Cardinal virtues – those which are accessible to us by natural (unregenerate) reason:
1. Justice – concerned with fairness and rightness
2. Prudence – concerned with being able to discern what is the right action at the right time.
3. Temperance – Concerned with being able to control oneself.
4. Fortitude/Courage – being concerned with the ability to confront fear, uncertainty, and intimidation.
How do we cultivate these virtues? An important question, if we want to take seriously the life that God has called each of us to, but for us, that’s a discussion for next week.
See you then!
Which if the Cardinal virtues do you find the hardest to embody? Why? Let us know in the comments!