It has been a while since I’ve quoted anything from Marcus Aurelius. Today seemed like a good day to do it again since I’ve recently had to defend stoicism. Well, not defend, either you get it or you don’t nothing I do or say is going to change that.
But, really, for everyone’s sake I hope they get on board with stoicism. It’s not a bad thing. There was a person recently who became angry just because I mentioned that something he had said was stoic. I still have no idea why he had such an intense reaction, but obviously he views being stoic as a negative thing.
Being stoic does not mean we don’t feel anything, or care, or are unhappy, or are weak. Having a stoic view on life takes a tremendous amount of courage and self-discipline. It means we accept that we have no control over anything or anyone other than our lives and ourselves.
A seriously scary thought for a control freak, perfectionist…
The funny thing is, though, that once I started to train my mind to think that way I couldn’t stop. Sure, the old way of thinking makes an appearance every once in a while, but for the most part my feathers stay unruffled.
I can’t tell you how much nicer I am now because I don’t get offended over the most minor of offenses, imagined or otherwise. I can cut people some slack. I can ignore hurtful comments. I can walk around without my shoulders tensed in anticipation of being hurt or offended.
So, tell me, how is that a bad thing? Every one of us is looking for a little peace, less stress, to find ourselves and what fulfills us. How can we ever do that if we’re constantly trying to control things that are out of our control? If we ponder, meditate on things that make us angry or frustrated. If we remember all the bad things that happened to us and then hold onto them like they’re the last life-preserver on the Titanic.
See it’s not so much what happens to us that makes us who we are, but what we do with our past experiences…
Maybe that’s why this person became so angry. Up until now he believed his past and all the bad things that people did to him was responsible for all of his bad decisions and why he is where is now. If he accepts stoicism then the responsibility lands squarely on his shoulders.
But I can attest to the truth that the sooner we accept the responsibility of our actions and let go of all the other stuff the better off we’ll be. I’ve said and done things which I wish I hadn’t. There are times when I cringe and wish I could forget how I used to be. All I can hope is that if I become the type of person who is forgiving and non-judgmental that others will respond in kind.
And if they don’t? Well, that’s on them…
‘Your mind will take the shape of what you frequently hold in thought, for the human spirit is colored by such impressions.’
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.16 (Excerpt from The Daily Stoic, Ryan Holiday & Stephen Hanselman)