Your worst enemy

Wouldn’t it be nice to blame it all on the others?

It would be at least damn convenient, but who is it that can really hurt us?

The society, family, priests, police or politicians? The envious neighbours? The people you have to deal with at work? These and many more can cause you hindrance on a practical level, but how far does their influence actually reach?

If you believe the good old Stoics, not very far beneath the surface:

…the man has not harmed you – he has not made your directing mind worse than it was before.
– Marcus Aurelius (7.22)

So who can make your directing mind worse?

This is a recurring thought offered by Stoicism: only you can really hurt you. Challenging? You bet!

See, whatever they do, their deeds will not make your directing mind worse, and if that stays intact, you have actually not been harmed as a person. Your money may be stolen, you may be physically injured, you may suffer a trauma that needs care and time to heal, but you did not change into a worse person.

Your lack of wisdom, your lack of kindness, your lack of courage and your lack of self-control do make you a worse person. By practicing vice instead of virtue you can make your directing mind weaker and you can miscalibrate your moral compass.

Whether buy in to this idea completely or not, it is worth giving a consideration. How could you apply this line of thinking the next time someone causes you grief? What difference would it make, if any?

It is also a very unpopular idea these days, for apparent reasons.

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