Philotimo: A Greek Word Without Meaning but Very Meaningful
Author: Jack Schafer Ph.D.
Philotimo is a Greek word that is without definition, but impacts the world beyond imagination. The word philotimo comes from the Greek root words “filos,” meaning friend, and “timi,” meaning honor. The meaning of philotimo extends far beyond the words friend and honor. Philotimo encompasses the concepts of pride in self, pride in family, pride in community, and doing the right thing. Philotimo is an all-encompassing concept that gives meaning to life that stretches well beyond ourselves. Elder Paisiou aptly defined philotimo as “that deep-seated awareness in the heart that motivates the good that a person does. A philotimos person is one who conceives and enacts eagerly those things good."
People rarely do things for others without expecting something of equal or greater value in return. The virtue of personal sacrifice is fading fast. Technology is creating personal bubbles wherein the focus on self holds supreme. People rarely feel comfortable talking to others because they fearthe perception of being politically incorrect. People are reluctant to help stranded motorists because we say to ourselves, “They have cell phones. They can call for help themselves,” not to mention the possibility that the stranded motorist might be luring people into a violent trap. People are less generous because many charities redirect the donated funds for personal use. Rarely do workers take pride in what they can contribute to the company that they work for but, rather, what more the company can give them. As far as doing the right thing goes, there is no longer a bright line between right and wrong, which makes doing the right thing nearly impossible.
The solution is simple. Become a philotimo person. Be aware that your behaviors are not only a reflection of yourself but a reflection of your family, your community, and your country. Take pride in what you do simply because you have taken the time and effort to do it. Help others simply because they need help. Do the right thing because you have a duty to do the right thing. Even thought the lines between right and wrong are blurred, we know in our hearts what is the right thing to do. Philotimo kept the close-knit Greek community strong and vibrant for thousands of years. Americans need to take notice and assimilate the principles of philotimo into the fabric of our society. The Greek word that has no meaning can bring meaning back into all our lives.