#1633 Areté +1° #447: Magnanimous vs. Pusillanimous

Will You Be a Great or Very Small Soul?

Hi, this is Brian.

Welcome back to another Areté +1°, a micro chapter, one of the very last micro-chapters in Areté: Activate Your Heroic Potential.


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

Magna = “great” + animus = “soul.”

A great soul? Sign me up! How do we become THAT?

Well, Aristotle’s take on it is fantastic. Here’s what he says in his Nicomachean Ethics: “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.”

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.”




Dictionary, please.

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

Etymology, please.

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

Magnanimous means “great soul.”

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

Magnanimous vs. 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?


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.

Our +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, let’s flip the switch and invite the best, most Heroic version of ourselves to join us with a calm, confident, relaxing breath.

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


Go be that version of you today.

Let’s get your energy focused on what’s important now as we close the gap, live with Areté, and activate your magnanimous, Heroic potential.

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