Of mankind we may say in general they are fickle, hypocritical, and greedy of gain.– Niccolò Machiavelli
What does that mean?
Kind of scathing, wouldn’t you say? I’m sure he wasn’t talking about us, specifically. Those other guys, yeah, that’s who he was talking about. Not to put too fine a point on it, that’s a fairly apt description of the bulk of humanity, isn’t it? Especially those who are in, or seek, power?
From theFreeDictionary.com come the following definitions: Fickle is defined as “Characterized by erratic changeableness or instability.” Hypocritical is defined as “Characterized by practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess.” Greedy is defined as “Excessively desirous of acquiring or possessing more than what one needs or deserves.”
Doesn’t that about sum it up? Humanity, as a whole, is erratic, two-faced, and wants more than it deserves? Again, this quote admits that it is painting with a broad brush, but it still gets it more right than wrong. All of these things are the opposite of a humble and upstanding person, and that is how humanity should behave, in my opinion.
Why is humble and upstanding important?
Again, from theFreeDictionary.com come the following definitions: Humble is defined as “Marked by modesty in behavior, attitude, or spirit; not arrogant or prideful.” Upstanding is defined as “Morally upright; honest.” and “of good character.”
Restating, I would rather humanity was known for being modest in behavior, attitude and spirit, honest and of good character. Would you rather be lumped in with the folks spoken of in the quote, or the ones in my redefinition of what I wish humanity to become?
Being humble is important because it allows us to work well with others, and not want too much. It is the antidote, if you will, for greed. Being upstanding is important because it brings the steadiness of character that rejects erratic-ness and prevents you from being two-faced. It is the antidote, if you will, for both fickleness and hypocrisy.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Being humble and upstanding means you are the opposite of how humanity is portrayed in the quote. To me, these are the extremes, and while actual quote is something we should work away from, I hope the my proposed quote is a goal for all of us to work towards.
I would say nearly all of humanity falls somewhere between. I would hope more fall closer to my vision of humanity than Machiavelli’s, but some days I wonder. As seems fitting, the powerful tend to gravitate more towards Machiavelli’s view of humanity, as he was in the business of advising these types of people.
While you are probably familiar with a few people who match the quote, they are likely only known to you from the news, and not personal friends. However, I imagine you know several people who very closely match the way I wish humanity was known.
So, the question is how do we move farther away from Machiavelli’s version of humanity and towards our better selves? I would start with (surprise) self-examination. This won’t be pleasant, but without brutal honesty, change will be difficult, if not impossible. You’ll get out of it what you put in. Ready?
In what areas of your life would you sometimes find yourself closer to the quote than to your best self? When are you (or when do you even show more than a slight leaning towards being) fickle, hypocritical, or greedy of gain? Try to be as specific as you can. Grab some paper and write a few of them down.
For me, I’m most fickle when trying to prioritize among my projects. I tend to switch from one to the next with little to show for the effort (besides the effort). Hypocrisy abounds in my life. I talk a great talk here on the blog, but often find myself falling well short. While some might chalk it up to human frailty, not all of it is. Greedy of gain, well, if you count techy toys, I’m very guilty.
I realize I wasn’t too specific, but you are the only one who will be reading your list. Hopefully you have some ideas where you might want to work on yourself. Set a goal, and a deadline. Determine the steps you need to take to get from where you are to where you want to be, and get started.
It may be difficult to define a goal for “I want to be less fickle,” but that’s why I urged you to be as specific as possible. For me, I am working on being better at prioritizing projects and either finishing or eliminating them, not jumping from one to the next, leaving them unfinished.
From: Twitter, @Emery_Stone
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/niccolomac157838.html
Photo by Steve Parker