Simple Stoic Advice

On Destruction of Character

Photo by madison lavern on Unsplash

The beautiful thing about Stoic philosophy is the advice contained within it is just as applicable today as it was when it was first written all those many years ago. We can learn a great deal from interpreting the advice provided and using it to our advantage as we go throughout our own lives.

Today’s quote comes to us courtesy of Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 4.8:

Quote

“It can ruin your life only if it ruins your character. Otherwise it cannot harm you — inside or out.”

Advice

The idea of being unmovable in the face of adversity is a common theme amongst the Stoics. Marcus writes to himself later in book four of Meditations:

“To be like the rock that the waves keep crashing over. It stands unmoved and the raging of the sea falls still around it.”

This notion that we have the ability to control our thoughts and be resilient in the face of adversity is what brings most people to Stoicism. But this does not mean having a “stiff upper lip” and being emotionless. Rather, it is about understanding a situation, and shifting our perspective to meet the demands of the situation.

Heraclitus, the early Greek philosopher, is famous for saying:

“Character is fate.”

Many of the Hellenistic schools of philosophy believed in the idea that our character defined who we were and determined our actions. The Stoics in particular wanted to ensure that external things could not shape our character, but that we ourselves had an innate ability to do so.

Seneca, writing to his friend and mentee, Lucilius, states:

“Cast aside those things that glitter on the outside, those things that are promised you by another or from another, and trample them underfoot. Look to your real good, and rejoice in what is yours. What is it that is yours? Yourself; the best part of you.”

It is therefore imperative that we know who we are, and we live each action through this understanding. There will always be these “glittery” mirages in the world around us. They are meant to distract and pull our attention. But we cannot let them determine who we are.

As Seneca states above, the best part of anything is ourselves, and it is within ourselves that we should rejoice.

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