Stoic Week Day 3: Friends and relations
Say to yourself first thing in the morning: I shall meet with people who are meddling, ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, and unsociable. They are subject to these faults because of their ignorance of what is good and bad. But I have recognised the nature of the good and seen that it is the right, and the nature of the bad and seen that it is the wrong, and the nature of the wrongdoer himself, and seen that he is related to me, not because he has the same blood or seed, but because he shares in the same mind and portion of divinity. So I cannot be harmed by any of them, as no one will involve me in what is wrong. Nor can I be angry with my relative or hate him. We were born for cooperation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of upper and lower teeth. So to work against each other is contrary to nature; and resentment and rejection count as working against someone.
The third day in the Stoic Week hits close to home – and Marcus Aurelius reminds me of a thing I’ve been repeating like a mantra for the last two years: as a writer, I am in competition only with myself, and I am (or I should be) part of a community.
Handling resentment can be pretty hard-going, on the other hand. Because even when we do not consider others as competition, they might think differently. And the web has made it quite easy to weaponize our platforms.
I know writers that spend more time slinging barbs at their colleagues (including yours truly), at publishers and reviewers, than actually writing. And nobody likes being mocked or slandered. It hurts.
And Marcus Aurelius says it should not matter, but it’s not that easy.
So yes, Marcus Aurelius my friend, resentment and rejection are the same as working against someone, and I am sure it is a waste of time and energy, much better employed working for someone, or for ourselves.
But once in a while a f*ck you! helps release the tension.
Afterwards one can just let go of these people, and focus on the positive.
Because when we allow resentment or hostility from others to crank us up, we are implicitly leaving them the controls – and allowing someone who is openly hostile to us to have control over our lives, no matter how marginal that control is, is simply stupid.
Whenever you want to cheer yourself up, think of the good qualities of those who live with you: such as the energy of one, the decency of another, the generosity of another, and some other quality in someone else. There is nothing so cheering as the images of the virtues displayed in the characters of those who live with you, and grouped together as far as possible. So you should keep them ready at hand.Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.48