Philotimo: The Essential Virtue of Goodness

At the end of the day, philotimo is a natural way of being because the essential nature of each of us is one of goodness, sometimes hidden in the deep layers within ourselves but always ready to surface and take residence in our hearts.
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Something is happening in today's society. There is change in the air. It's been happening for a while. Consciousness is rising, and many people are waking up to the fact that the states of competition, division, conquer and fear-based tactics are no longer working. The reason is simple; these states of being are based on selfishness and what is in it for the individual. Guess what? Selfishness is old news. Selflessness is in. Selflessness is the force that inspires individuals to care about other people and the world around them.

This is the very essence of the Greek word philotimo. It means "friend of honor," and its roots lie deeply in Greece, the birthplace of democracy. At its core, philotimo is about goodness and generosity of spirit. It's an innate way of life for Greeks, and it represents the open-arms hospitality and authentic giving to people. This way of life is about respecting others as equals and giving unconditionally without expecting anything back. It asks those that possess philotimo to respect and treat others around them with dignity, honor and decency.

Why would I write a blog piece on philotimo? How is this way of being, which is so ingrained in the Greek people and culture, relevant to everyone? It is relevant because our essential nature is goodness, and it is in all of us. Every one of us, deep down, is a vessel of goodness, light and love. Yes, we are. Our true identity is one of goodness and greatness. What keeps us from accessing these qualities is all the pain, hurt and disappointment that we have experienced in our lives. We keep our hearts closed because we fear being hurt. We hold back from giving because we fear that there will not be enough left for us and believe that love is not abundant.

The heart is like a flower. It needs tending and nourishment in the form of love, just like the flower needs nourishment from the sun. If the heart remains closed, it withers away and dies. It doesn't serve us to have our hearts closed no matter what has happened. We need to keep our hearts open to ourselves and to others. We need to discover our true essence, and we can only do this by remaining open. Our true essence, which is one of love, light and wisdom, is all about giving of ourselves to others and life.

If you think about it, we have nothing but ourselves to give away anyway: our presence, our gifts, our knowledge, our kindness and our generosity. It is all there to be given away and shared with others. Something magical happens to us when we place our attention on others instead of ourselves. We open a portal inside of us where joy and fulfillment reside. There is no greater feeling than making someone else happy and knowing you have impacted their life in a positive way. This is the power of philotimo, as it honors the giver and the receiver in the same way.

The concept of philotimo lends itself to the laws of hospitality and the honor and bonds between equals. Treating others with respect and dignity and going out of your way to assist another is considered a noble act. In ancient Greece, philotimo was part of the idea of xenophilia. This meant being respectful to anyone from another town and anyone from far away. If we apply this philosophy today, that means being respectful of everyone no matter where they originate from.

Can you imagine the universal implication of that? Countries would embrace each other. Some countries, instead of bombing each other, would respect each one's differences and offer support. Countries would treat each other with dignity and reverence. At the end of the day, all countries are made up of their citizens, the individuals who live there. The heart of a country is its people, and it's the people's hearts that resonate an energy that influences the country. If enough people are aware and their consciousness is coming from a vibration of love, light and kindness, then this vibration will be stronger than the vibration of fear and insecurity.

As individuals, each one of us has the power within ourselves to change the course of our lives and to impact others around us. We don't just belong to a family and a country; we are part of the whole of the world. And as Socrates boldly stated, "I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world." What we do impacts others on a bigger scale that we don't even know about. What happens to other people on the opposite side of the world is our business. Other people's pain is our pain. Other people's joy is our joy. When we lift others up, we inevitably lift ourselves up, also.

If, at its core, philotimo is hinged in the ideals of honor, dignity, decency and pride, then surely these must firstly be in ourselves. In order to honor another person, to treat them with dignity, decency and pride, you must have these qualities within yourself for yourself. You can't give something to someone that you don't have to give to start with. It all starts with us as unique individuals honoring ourselves and treating ourselves with dignity and decency as well as being proud of who we are and embracing all of our journey. When we have reverence for who we are and our life experience, then we have reverence for others. When we befriend ourselves rather than attack ourselves, we are being a friend of honor to ourselves, and we create the space to be a friend of honor to other people. We have a responsibility to honor and respect ourselves and other people around us.

At the end of the day, philotimo is a natural way of being because the essential nature of each of us is one of goodness, sometimes hidden in the deep layers within ourselves but always ready to surface and take residence in our hearts.