Simple Stoic Advice
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 4.19:
“What use is praise, except to make your lifestyle a little more comfortable?”
Too often, we put stock in the praise we receive from others. On social media, we judge our own worth by how many likes and comments we receive. When giving a speech, we determine how we did based upon how many individuals stand and clap for us.
Marcus Aurelius is perhaps the most famous of all the Stoics simply because he was a Roman Emperor.
But even with the fame, Marcus continually reminds himself in the Meditations of the uselessness of fame and praise. In book eight, he writes to himself:
“They all die soon — praiser and praised, rememberer and remembered.”
This was his attempt to shift perspective from what far too many of us are hindered by today: placing stock in things that do not lead to virtue.
Praise from external individuals does not make someone a good person, nor does it mean an individual is virtuous. In order to live a good life, according to the Stoics, one had to work continually on attempting to live a good and just life. This was a daily practice of self-reflection, practice, and thought.
But the majority of us do not even do that.
At times, Marcus seems to even look down upon individuals who seek fame or praise thinking it leads to something worthy, writing to himself:
“They flatter one another out of contempt, and their desire to rule one another makes them bow and scrape.”
It is easy to get cause up in the illusion of fame and praise, that it actually means something worthwhile. If fame and praise come from one living a virtuous life, then so be it, but it is nothing to hold any value in.
As Marcus reminded himself once more:
“Beautiful things of any kind are beautiful in themselves and sufficient to themselves. Praise is extraneous. The object of praise remains what it was — no better and no worse.”
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