The word hexis in ancient Greek means an active condition of moral virtue. Hexis is a kind of striving or working to overcome our passive habituation by strength of character or condition of the soul.
We need hexis if we are ever to become better people than we are today, if we don't want to be overcome by the inertia of habit and inaction in our lives. Here are 20 hexis inspiring quotes by some of the world's greatest minds on becoming good:
Aristotle believed that we get virtues by working to get them. We overcome desires by hexis - by the strength of our character. Our desires don't necessarily go away. Rather, we get stronger in order to resist things that are bad for us or bad for others.
2. Face the facts of being what you are, for that is what changes what you are. - Søren Kierkegaard
Looking at yourself honestly, your motivations, your faults - is hard work. We tend to resist doing this work because we are afraid of what we might find. But you need to face up to your faults and weaknesses to figure out what areas of your character could stand some improvement.
3. Life itself is neither a good nor an evil: life is where good or evil find a place, depending on how you make it for them. - Seneca
Here the Stoic philosopher Seneca reminds us that we make the the world one way or another through our moral choices.
4. Allow yourself to think only those thoughts that match your principles and can bear the bright light of day. Day by day, your choices, your thoughts, your actions fashion the person you become. Your integrity determines your destiny. - Heraclitus
Heraclitus defines integrity as a state of non-contradiction. So you feel, so you think, so you act. In this way you avoid being internally at war with yourself.
5. Associate yourself with people of good quality, for it is better to be alone than to be in bad company. - Booker T. Washington
You befit from having good mentors and roll models in your life, people who's example you would like to follow. Not everyone is a good role model.
6. Waste no more time arguing About What a Good Man Should Be. Be one. - Marcus Aurelius
Stop worrying about what other people - family, friends, politicians, etc. are doing. You can't change that anyway. Don't focus on an external ideal - embody your ideal yourself.
7. We should, then, soften our hearts and make them aware of the sufferings and miseries of our neighbor. - Saint Vincent de Paul
Life isn't all about looking out for number one. See what you can do to help others in need.
8. Elegance is inferior to virtue. - Mary Shelley
Taste, fashion, appearances, etc. are not as important as your character.
9. Always recognize that human individuals are ends, and do not use them as means to your end. -Immanuel Kant
Everyone should be treated with dignity. Kant believed that humans embody the moral law within and that if they disappeared from the planet so to would the moral dimension of life on earth. We have a duty to treat others well. We should respect their rights, treat everyone as equal, promote the welfare of others, and never manipulate others or use them to achieve our own goals.
10. As a man who knows how to make his education into a rule of life not a means of showing off; who can control himself and obey his own principles. The true mirror of our discourse is the course of our lives. - Montaigne (quoting Cicero)
The most important purpose of intellectual inquiry is personal development, or the art of living.
11. The more clearly you understand yourself and your emotions, the more you become a lover of what is. - Baruch Spinoza
Accept yourself, including your faults and failings.
12. Modesty is the color of virtue. - Diogenes
Don't have too high an opinion of own your accomplishments. Practice being unpretentious.
13. Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating. - Simone Weil
We moderns tend to find ethics and morality not so sexy, but this is a mistake.
14. Create all the happiness you are able to create; remove all the misery you are able to remove. Every day will allow you, --will invite you to add something to the pleasure of others, --or to diminish something of their pains. - Jeremy Bentham
Find little ways to brighten someone's day. A compliment here, a smile there goes a long way.
15. A man who has not passed through the inferno of his passions has never overcome them. - Carl Jung
It's easy to think you will do the right thing until you are tested. Jung believed that we should integrate our negative qualities into our conscious personality, not suppress or bury them. Integration is the way to overcome our defects and errors.
16. Our souls may lose their peace and even disturb other people's, if we are always criticizing trivial actions - which often are not real defects at all, but we construe them wrongly through our ignorance of their motives.
-Saint Teresa of Avila
Give people the benefit of the doubt. Don't bicker. Don't be petty.
17. Truthfulness. He will never willingly tolerate an untruth, but will hate it as much as he loves truth... And is there anything more closely connected with wisdom than truth? - Plato
Don't lie to yourself. Try to see things as they really are.
18. Virtue is a state of war, and to live in it we have always to combat with ourselves. - Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Another great quote about intentionally cultivating virtue or hexis - not falling back into habitual ways of being, or letting our baser instincts get the best of us.
19. Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that but simply growth, We are happy when we are growing. - William Butler Yeats
Yeats defines happiness as expanding our awareness and becoming more than we are now.
20. We should every night call ourselves to an account: what infirmity have I mastered today? what passions opposed? what temptation resisted? what virtue acquired? Our vices will abate of themselves if they be brought every day to the shrift. - Seneca
Take a moment each night to think about what you did well or poorly that day. This is an easy form of therapy or self examination. We can build hexis, or strength of character, through practice.
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