Manners and Morals

Manners and Morals

Know your key quality

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

By Pendar

This blog is part of the series Not So Ancient Wisdom, based on Baltasar Gracián’s The Pocket Oracle and Art of Prudence

Aphorism # 34:

Know your key quality, your outstanding gift. Cultivate it, and improve the rest. Everyone could have been pre-eminent in something, if they had been aware of their best quality. Identify your key attribute and redouble its use. In some this is their judgment, in others courage. Most people misuse their capabilities, and so achieve superiority in nothing. What passion rushes to flatter, time is slow to disillusion us about.

This is really good advice. Identifying your key quality is a long process, the process of self-knowledge. But I do think that if you start early enough you’ll identify your key quality in time to start working with it. Then comes this: “cultivate it, and improve the rest.” Very subtle, very nice. We build on our key quality, “redouble” its use, but only “improve” the rest of our qualities.

In other words, we shouldn’t try to turn our other qualities into “key” ones. That’s what Gracián means by “misuse” of our capabilities, our efforts. We should be content with improving our qualities and not waste our time trying to develop them to become key ones. Very good advice. This is at the heart of the question of how to become “good enough” parents.



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