#468 Are You Pusillanimous?

Much Better to be Magnanimous

A couple +1s ago I promised to chat about Aristotle’s thoughts on magnanimity.

It’s one of the “Other Moral Virtues” he talks about after he covers the Big 2: Courage and Self-Control.

Magnanimity might just be my favorite word. Do you know what it literally means?

Magna = “great” + animus = “soul.”

A great soul?

Yep. Sign me up. How do I become THAT?

Well, Aristotle’s take on it is fantastic. Here’s what he says: “Greatness of soul, as the very name suggests, is concerned with things that are great, and we must first grasp of what sort these are.”

He continues by saying: “Well, a person is considered to be magnanimous if he thinks that he is worthy of great things, provided he is worthy of them; because anyone who esteems his own worth unduly is foolish, and nobody who acts virtuously is foolish or stupid.”

Well isn’t that fascinating.

The first step to being a great soul is to THINK THAT YOU ARE WORTHY OF GREAT THINGS.

Now, of course, there’s a vice of excess here. In Aristotle’s words: “The man who thinks that he is worthy of great things although he is not worthy of them is conceited.”

Got it. Definitely don’t want to be conceited. Let’s stay grounded and humble and committed to serving something bigger than ourselves.

And… Let’s be clear that there’s ALSO a vice of DEFICIENCY here. Back to Aristotle: “On the other hand the man who has too low an opinion is pusillanimous: and it makes no difference whether his worth is great or moderate or little, if his opinion of it is too low. Indeed the man whose worth is great might be regarded as especially pusillanimous.”

(For the record: Out of the entire Nicomachean Ethics, it was THIS section that most jumped out and screamed at me.)



Dictionary, please.

pusillanimous | ˌpyo͞osəˈlanəməs |
showing a lack of courage or determination; timid.

(Thank you, Apple Dictionary.)

Etymology, please.

(Thank you, Apple Dictionary.)

Etymology, please.

late Middle English: from ecclesiastical Latin pusillanimis (translating Greek olugopsukhos), from pusillus ‘very small’ + animus ‘mind’, + -ous.


Magnanimous means “great soul.” Pusillanimous (I dislike even saying that word in my head) means “very small soul”?!


Magnanimous. Pusillanimous.

A GREAT soul or a very small soul. Which would you like to be?

As we ponder that question, Eric Butterworth comes to mind. In Discover the Power Within You he tells us: “You may say, ‘But I am only human.’ This is the understatement of your life. You are not only human—you are also divine in potential. The fulfillment of all your goals and aspirations in life depends upon stirring up and releasing more of that divine potential. And there is really nothing difficult about letting this inner light shine. All we must do is correct the tendency to turn off our light when we face darkness.”

Gandhi also comes to mind. You know what they called him? Mahatma. You know what mahatma means? “Great soul.” It’s from Sanskrit maha (“great”) and atman (“soul”).

Sound familiar? THAT’s the kind of great soul we’re talking about.

And… That’s Today’s +1.

I hereby challenge you, my dear friend, to step into the greatness of your soul. Here’s to your magnanimity.

If you feel so inspired, please take a deep breath with a nice, long exhale (as per Optimal Breathing 101).

Bring to mind the most energized, radiantly alive, loving, kind, courageous, disciplined, virtuous version of yourself.

Now go be that version of you today.

Let’s Optimize our lives, actualize our potential and change the world together.

With eudaimonia and areté.

+1. +1. +1.

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