10 Things I Learned From Ben Franklin

In past few months, I’ve read Ben Franklin’s Autobiography and Walter Isaacson’s “Benjamin Franklin- An American Life.” Both are fantastic and worth the read.

I’m fascinated with Ben Franklin because unlike most of the other Founding Fathers, he started from nothing and worked his way to global influence. He wasn’t gifted land or a another in a long line of British aristocracy. In this way I find him relatable. But he is also a person unlike anyone else I’m familiar with. During his life he was the most recognizable person in the world, America’s greatest and best-selling writer, the world’s most renowned scientist and inventor, the most influential diplomat, a governor, the postmaster general, a successful printer and much more. In today’s world of over specialization, it’s almost inconceivable to imagine one person being all of these things. Can you imagine an US President (most influential diplomat) being America’s best selling, author, and the world’s most renowned scientist and inventor? I can’t see this ever happening.

I learned so much from studying his life. Here are 10 things I learned from Ben Franklin:

  1. Do not neglect investing in and growing intimate familial relationships. Franklin was neither a great husband or father. He wasn’t there for his family in the ways he should have been.
  2. More can be achieved by working together for the common good. Ben was a master at rallying his communities to work together to get beneficial things done.
  3. Be unceasingly curious. About all kinds of things. Never Stop learning. From early childhood to his deathbed Franklin never lost his desire to learn about anything and everything.
  4. Anyone, ANYONE, can succeed in America by being industrious, curious, frugal, virtuous, and willing to work. The American dream is not dead. Hard working, virtuous people still succeed.
  5. Compromise requires great strength and wisdom. In his political career Franklin displayed a willingness to compromise for the greater good that is completely absent from modern politics. Today (as some did then), we think of people who compromise as weak, flakey, dispassionate, etc. This isn’t always the case. Many times compromise is a sign of wisdom, strength, and emotional maturity.
  6. Adapting to fit your surrounding culture can prove advantageous. When in France, Ben behaved like the french and spoke French. When in America, he acted American and spoke English. This allowed him to connect with people on a deeper level.
  7. Experiment! Try things. Make mistakes. Try again. Electricity? That was Ben Franklin. The common cold being caused by germs and NOT cold temperatures? Also Ben. Exercise prevents illness and improves heart health? Ben. Canals for ships to pass though? You guessed it! Ben. He took an interest in all kinds of things and was not afraid to try and fail. Most of the time I am too afraid to try and fail
  8. It’s not enough just to be virtuous, you must also appear virtuous. Being honest is great and the right thing to do no matter what. But it’s even better to be rightly known as an honest person.
  9. Speak ill of no person. Ben did his best on this but often failed. It’s still a noble goal.
  10. “Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen as by little advantages that occur everyday.” Benjamin Franklin 
Advertisements

Stardust?

One of my favorite jobs was a work-study program in college. I worked at a local elementary school as a teacher’s aide, tutor, lunch-room monitor, and basically whatever else the teachers needed me to do. I love working with kids because everything seems way less complicated. Kids generally know what they think and just say it.

Every so often, there would be an assembly where someone would come in and perform some kind of act or speech for the kids. One time it was these two guys who were jugglers and box stackers. It was actually kind of fun watching the box juggling, stacking thing. It basically looks like the boxes are magnetic by the way the are manipulating them but they aren’t.

Of course the kids loved it. They were amazed. The two jugglers told a story and sang during the performance. It was all about how amazing humans are. How so long ago, a cosmic explosion made all the stars and planets and everything. How not as long ago, a star blew up and this stardust, over bazillions of years, became the earth and the animals and finally people.

How cool is that! You are made out of stardust! That’s something that makes you awesome.

This is what the kids were taught. That they are dust. Stardust at least, but still dust. This doesn’t inspire dignity and creativity in a human. “Hey kid, you’re dust. From a star. Isn’t that cool!?” That’s not something I wanted these children to think. I want them to know the truth. To praise God for creating not just the stars, but also humanity in majesty with eternal dignity like David does in the 8th Psalm. 

Once the blasphemous entertainment ended, I was mentally scrambling as to what I could do to try to show some truth to these kids. I asked one of the little girls who was walking with me: “Do you think you are made out of stardust?” She looked at me with the beautiful smile God gave her and said, “Nope! I just like the singing!” And skipped away giggling and pretending to juggle.

This little 1st grader could see straight through the stupidity of what the guys were trying to teach. She simply knew that she was something more than mere dust. I think this is the kind of thing that Jesus talks about when He tells us to be more like children. Stop overcomplicating and overthinking things. Just know that you are more.

 

 

31 Proverbs Men

Proverbs 31:30

Charm is deceptive and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.

It seems like now more than ever it’s easy to be deceptively charming and beautifully vain. Photo-editing has made sure of that. Many phones even have a “beauty mode” that photoshops your face as you take the selfie.

I don’t thing any of this is intrinsically wrong, they just make it easier to be vain and deceptive.

Imagine a woman on Instagram with 1000 followers posts a picture of her church and how much she enjoys serving there. She’ll probably get a couple dozen likes and maybe a comment or two.

Imagine this same woman posts a bikini pic with her back arched and half her butt out. She’ll get hundreds, maybe more than a thousand likes and plenty of friend requests to go along with it.

Many women who get praised by the world are the exact opposite of the kind of women who should be praised and revered. Women that fear the Lord and do the hard work of living for Him deserve the praise.

Let’s find them, and recognize them. They deserve it.

P.S.

Sorry ladies, Proverbs 31 was not written for you. You can definitely learn and apply what it says but it was not written as a manual for godly living as a female.

Men need help. You know this, but it’s worth noting. I’ve heard both women and men point to Proverbs 31 as evidence of the male dominated society in which it was written. They say, “ well there’s no Proverbs 32 man!” Or get annoyed that there’s no instruction for how men are to live husbands. But these people are just plain wrong.

The entire book of Proverbs is structured as a father passing down his wisdom to his son. Yes, much of it involves figuring out how to tell the good women from the bad but this is not a comment on women. Rather, it points out how much wisdom it takes for a man to find the good ones.

Men need that help. We need 31 chapters of wisdom to figure out how to live.

Words Matter

Proverbs 30:6

Do not add to His words or He will reprove you and you will be proved a liar.

In order to not add to God’s words, you have to know His words.

I don’t think that this is only talking about those who blatantly add things to the Bible. Like those who change some wording around to make gay marriage or abortion ok. Or other religions like catholicism and mormonism that add their own books to the canon.

I think that this is a warning to take God’s words at face value, whether you like them or not. Some God-Loving people put words in God’s mouth because they don’t know what He actually said.

I’ve done it. I used to think that in some ways His word prevented woman from being in some types of leadership. Thankfully after studying with more clarity and guidance, I was proved a liar.

Just because today’s culture thinks sex outside of a heterosexual marriage is fine, doesn’t mean that it is. Yet many true Christians add to God’s words when they sleep around. Or in my case, just because some well meaning church leaders forbid women from serving as leaders doesn’t mean it’s right. This is adding to His words too.

The best thing any of us can do to live an authentic life with God is to learn His word, take it at face value, and do it.

Kids

Proverbs 29:15

The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.

Adults tend to forget that kids don’t know anything. They are literally brand new humans.

Before a computer can do anything it has to have the right programming. Somebody writes code and creates software and then the computer is usable.

When a three year old child is thirsty, they think that they will literally die if they don’t get something to drink right now. It’s the job of the adults in her life to teach her that she is capable of waiting until an appropriate time to drink. This is the kind of wisdom a 3 year old can learn.

I’ve worked with enough kids over the past 8ish years to see that our society has a parenting crisis. Don’t believe me? Watch any professional sports contest. In the NBA, anytime a referee makes a call at least one player whines and gripes and complains about it. Every time I’ve seen NFL superstar Cam Newton lose a game, he’s a big fat sore loser. Remember when Ronda Rousey lost her first fight? She admitted to being suicidal.

Because of a game she lost.

Why though? It would appear that no one took the time to teach our kids how to lose. The discipline given in wisdom that gives wisdom seems to be non-existent. Instead, kids get their own way. Kids, who in the few years they have been alive, have managed to convince adults that they know what they need.

It’s time for discipline to come back. Not to control kids, but to raise them into great adults. Having great kids is never the goal. Raising kids to become great adults is.

Whether you know it or not, if your kids are always getting their own way, the shame falls on you.

Fess Up

Proverbs 28:13

He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.

Almost every day I see some celebrity/business/political scandal that has been uncovered. Even when I’m not looking. That’s what people seem to devote their lives too. Digging up dirt on someone.

What’s scary about that?

How much they find.

I’m grateful to live in a country where you have to treat people with respect and honesty in order to prosper long term. Obviously, there are those few who manage to prosper in spite of their misbehavior.

The crooks seem to get uncovered. When you sow deceit you reap calamity. Hiding the wrong things you do doesn’t help you or anyone else. Not only is it the right thing to fess up and forsake, but it’s also the best thing you can do for yourself.

Note that it’s confession AND forsaking. Confessing is easy once your transgression is out. But how many of us truly forsake them?

Foresight

Proverbs 27:12

A prudent man sees evil and hides himself, the naive proceed and pay the penalty.

Prudent: careful in providing for the future; cautious, reasonable, sane, far-sighted.

Naive: having or showing a lack of experience, judgement, or information; ignorant, unsophisticated, impulsive.

Foresight seems to be a lost art. Many do not have the ability to see beyond their next meal. The wise, prudent person “sees” into the future and makes decisions based on sane thinking. Much evil, danger, heartache, suffering can be avoided or eliminated with prudence.

My wife has taught me a lot about this. It’s not complicated but it is hard to do. Just think to yourself, “if I do or say this, what will be the consequences?” It takes an element of discernment that anyone can develop.

But they don’t. This is why species go extinct. Forests are ravaged. Babies killed in the womb. Suicides committed. Marriages severed. Products recalled.

Naive people are paying the penalty.