One of my favorite Marcus Aurelius quotes is “Choose not to be harmed and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed and you haven’t been.”
This quote – ‘It is exactly because she does not contend, that nobody can contend with her.’ – by Lao Tzu, which is part of a larger quote, is a close second.
They remind me that I have the power, the control, the awesome ability to not take offense, to not get caught up in the he said, she said drama. I get to choose not to be worked up over every little blip of life. But it is so hard to remember that sometimes.
Sometimes big events happen – life-changing events – that are so far-reaching we can’t even see the end. And then there’s the petty, little shit that seems to trip me up way more easily than the big stuff. You know, like the perceived slights and veiled insults at holiday dinners. Stuff that, at the end of the day, doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.
When I found the quote by Lao Tzu I wanted to make sure I understood it so I looked up the definition for the word contend. There were a couple of different meanings but the appropriate one is as follows:
Assert something as a position in an argument.
Think about that for a minute. Because we do not contend, argue, assert our opinion, no one can come back at us with theirs. And we keep the peace. We maintain our inner calm. We don’t stir up contention and strife.
Seriously, think about this for a minute. We can only lose our cool, our joy if we let someone take it away from us. We can only be hurt, offended long-term, crippled by it, if we choose to be.
We have the power. We have the control. We have the responsibility. Over ourselves and our actions. No one and nothing else.
So remember this holiday season when you brush up against the yuccas of your family that it takes two to argue. And while it sucks hardcore when some well-meaning ass says hurtful things they can only do permanent damage if we let them.
I know, I know, sometimes the urge to argue and defend ourselves is so powerful. And I am certainly not advocating that we let people walk all over us. But even if we are right, even if someone is saying rude and hurtful things, is making our point worth the escalated tension and strife and damage we can and will do to our relationships? Is us losing our peace worth it just to cram our opinion down someone else’s throat? Especially when said person doesn’t even realize how hurtful what they said was.
And at the end of day this holiday season, this event, this blip is just another season, event, blip in what is hopefully a long, happy, full life.
So take a deep breath, remind yourself of what and who you can control, and let the rest of the shit roll down hill.