Tag Archives: Acting with reservation

Stoic Serenity 5.7: Fair-weather Friends

Just a notice: Now’s your last chance to enroll in the Stoic Mindfulness and Resilience Training, a month-long course offered by the Stoicism Today team. It’s a chance to have some guided, in-depth practice of specific Stoic techniques for dealing with everyday trials. The course starts on Sunday, May 17! So sign up now if you’re interested: http://modernstoicism.com

Today’s lesson is Seneca’s Letter 9, “On Philosophy and Friendship” Read more of this post

Stoic Serenity 5.5.4: Epictetus’ Revolutionary Idea

Yesterday we ended with Marcus’ “Ten Commandments” for dealing with difficult people. In short, he wrote that we should respond to difficult people with kindness, including gently correcting them. There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. If we admonish people with hatred or spite in our own hearts, we’re being hypocritical: we’d be telling them to stop acting on their own anger while we ourselves are speaking out of anger.
  2. No one likes to be reproached anyway. Most people won’t even take kindly to constructive criticism. But there’s a much better chance at them accepting constructive criticism if it is presented out of kindness rather than out of spite.

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Stoic Serenity 5.5.1: Citizens of the World

Does someone despise me? That is his own problem. My only concern should be this: that I will never be found doing or saying something that is despicable. Does someone hate me? That is his own problem. But I will be kind and good-natured to everyone, including this person who hates me. For I must be ready to show him the nature of his error. Not in a critical spirit, of course, nor as if I were making a display of my own tolerance and self-control, but sincerely and kindheartedly, like the great politician Phocion, whose last words were instructions to his son to not hold a grudge against the Athenians for executing him. That’s how we should be within our own hearts, and present ourselves to God as someone who is neither ready to become angry nor complain. As long as you do what’s appropriate to your own nature, and accept what the Universal nature has in store—as long as you work, by one means or another, for the common benefit to be brought to fruition—what can harm you?

(Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 11.13)

Indifferent vs. Ignoring

In this final Meditation from yesterday’s lesson, Marcus pointed out that we should be “kind and good-natured to everyone, including this person who hates me. [And we] must be ready to show him the nature of his error.”

“Show him the nature of his error?” But I thought Stoics were supposed to be indifferent to other people’s bad behavior.

Yes, that’s true. But I venture to say that there is a difference between being indifferent and ignoring someone’s bad behavior. Read more of this post

Stoic Serenity 2.6: Acting with Reservation Exercise

Assignment time! I know we’ve been trudging through this second chapter, but the end is in sight, I promise! Consider this as an exercise in self-restraint and dedication. You’re improving your character. 🙂

  • Identify three incidents (whether they happened long ago or are recent events) in which your aim to have something happen was thwarted and which you think serve as good examples of how you can get upset about things.
  • Briefly write exactly what happened and how you felt.
  • For each situation, imagine that a Stoic is advising you to act “with reservation.” Write down their specific advice to you.
  • Do you think you would have coped better in the situation if you had had this conversation?

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Stoic Serenity 2.5: Acting “With Reservation” – Part 2

Are you continuing to keep a “Power Log?” I really hope so. I thought the activity was rudimentary and almost wasteful at first, but I’m beginning to see the benefits. Personally, as I’ve considered my daily activities and evaluated whether I have power over them, I’ve been noticing a shift: at first, when considering what is not in my power, I usually imagined absurd scenarios (a possible apocalypse prevents me from actually finishing the task, for example). But as I’ve continued, Read more of this post

Stoic Serenity 2.4: Acting “With Reservation” – Part 1

I do hope you’ll forgive me for spending so much time on Epictetus’ dichotomy of control, but understanding it is essential to our progress as Stoics. While the message may seem gloomy at first (considering everything we don’t have power over), the trade-off is more than worth it: we know that our souls are invincible and that we can overcome anything. How empowering!

Once we accept the reality that things happen in the world and that we just don’t have power over it, we begin to catch of glimpse of the meaning of our textbook title, Stoic SerenityThe weight of the world has been lifted from our shoulders. We know that we aren’t expected to make everything “work out in the end,” because that’s simply impossible and therefore a foolish expectation to entertain. Read more of this post

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