Etymologically the word magnanimity means great soul.  In this time when a lot of pusillanimity (that is, small souls) and cowardly souls have large megaphones it is refreshing to be reminded that magnanimity is possible.
Following are some observations from Thomas Aquinas about the virtue of magnanimity taken from my new book, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times:

Book cover for Matthew Fox’s forthcoming book on Thomas Aquinas. Pre-order book today!

Magnanimous people, in Aquinas’s understanding, do not depend overly much on the opinions of others. “It is characteristic of magnanimous people to be more solicitous about the truth than about the opinions of others. They do not depart from what they ought to do because of what people think.” Magnanimous people do not hide, for “it is a mark of magnanimous people to speak and work openly . . . and publicly divulge their words and deeds.” Furthermore, magnanimity does not hang on to hurts or self pity but move on: “Magnanimous people deliberately determine to forget injuries they have suffered.”

Magnanimity is the opposite of fear—it is an expression of courage. “Magnanimity is a part of the virtue of courage or fortitude.” In taking on big tasks, magnanimity faces great challenges and obstacles—it is marked by Hope and “establishes the soul when arduous tasks arise.”  Because it is “about hope in some arduous task” it is also about trust. Trust adds something to hope—it “furnishes a certain vigor to hope. For this reason it is the opposite of fear, as is hope.” Vigor, energy, enthusiasm, characterize hope revitalized by trust and magnanimity.

Following are three persons to celebrate for the magnanimity they have demonstrated this week:

Informational video from ASAP Science on the Coronavirus.

Mitt Romney for speaking from his conscience to defy his party to vote for Trump’s impeachment for his crimes. 

Doug Jones who, as a senator representing the very red state of Alabama, endangers his election next year by voting for Trump’s impeachment. 

Li Wenliang, the 34-year-old doctor at Whuan Central Hospital, who raised the alarm about the coronavirus long before Chinese health authorities disclosed its full threat.  His posts were censored and he was detained by authorities for “rumor-mongering.”  On being released he returned to the hospital to assist the victims and died of the disease himself on Feb. 6. 

Young women of color protesting injustice. Photo by T. Chick McClure on Unsplash

What did all these people have in common?  A commitment to truth.  Whatever the cost.  May they find millions of imitators especially in this election year.

Magnanimity is a virtue to emulate especially in a time when politicians prefer hiding and operating out of shallow and small souls–whether those politicians be in the United States senate or in the upper echelons of the Chinese communist party. 

Magnanimous people have much to teach the rest of us in tough times like ours.  Our finest thank you is to emulate them.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, p. 153f.

Banner Image: Stepping forth in courage. Photo by Oliver Cole on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

Turn the actions of these three persons over in your heart.  What do they teach you about courage?  About trust?  About your own “great soul”?  Go and do likewise.

Recommended Reading

The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times

A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book!  Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

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