Paulo Coelho

Stories & Reflections

The seventh and last cardinal virtue: Equilibrium

Author: Paulo Coelho

With this column we bring to a close the series of seven cardinal virtues composed of three theological virtues (Faith, Hope and Love) and four classic virtues (Wisdom, Justice, Courage and Equilibrium).

According to the New Testament (which appears not to agree very much with this particular virtue): These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (Apocalypse 3: 14-16)

In a Zen story: A fervent Buddhist lady made every effort to love others. But every time she went to the market, a merchant made indecent proposals to her.

One rainy morning, when the man bothered her once again, she lost control and hit him on the face with her umbrella. That same afternoon, she sought out a monk and told him what had happened.

“I am ashamed,” she said. “I couldn’t control my hate.”

“You did wrong to hate him,” answered the monk. “The next time he says something, fill your heart with goodness. And hit him again with your umbrella, because that’s the only language he knows.”

On the Jewish Day of Pardon: On the day of Yom Kippur, Rabbi Elimelekh of Lisensk took his disciples to a bricklayer’s workshop. “Notice how this man behaves,” he said. “Because he manages to communicate well with the Lord.”

Without noticing that he was being observed, the bricklayer ended his work and went to the window. He took two pieces of paper from his pocket and raised them to the sky, saying:

“Lord, on one paper I have written the list of my sins. I have erred and there is no reason for me to hide that I offended You several times. But on the other paper is the list of Your sins towards me. You have demanded of me more than what is necessary, brought me difficult moments, and made me suffer. If we compare the two lists, You are in debt towards me. But since today is the Day of Pardon, You pardon me, I pardon You, and we shall continue on our path together for another year.”

In an Islam story: Muhammad ib Suqah tells the story of Abddulah and Mansur, two faithful Moslems. One day, Abddulah asked his friend for help.

Time passed by, and no help was given. One day, Mansur asked: “My brother, you asked me for help and I did nothing. Nevertheless, this does not seem to bother you.”

“We have been friends for a long time. I learned to love you before I needed a favor,” answered Abddulah. “And I still go on loving you, whether you help me or not.”

Mansur answered: “I did not help you because I wanted to know how strong your desire was. Now I have seen that it stronger than discord and hate; tomorrow you will have what you asked for.”


According to an older couple: The two are having breakfast on their Golden Anniversary. The woman spreads butter on the crispy crust of toast and hands it to her husband, keeping the soft dough to herself. “I have always wanted to eat the best part,” she thought to herself. “But I love you, and for these fifty years I have tried to control myself and gave you the dough. Today I would like to satisfy my desire.”

To her surprise, her husband’s face opened in a big smile. “Thank you for this present! For fifty years I have always wanted to eat the bread crust. But in order to keep harmony in our marriage, since you always liked it so much, I never dared ask you.”

According to a younger couple: For Christmas, the husband receives two beautiful neckties from his wife. Feeling satisfied, he puts on his best suit, chooses one of his new ties and invites his wife out to dinner. While they eat, he notices that his wife seems very sad.

“My dear, I feel anxious and confused,” she says after a long silence. “Why are you wearing that tie? Didn’t you like the other?”

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