Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one
These words written by Marcus Aurelius to himself about 2000 years ago still resonates today. What he meant by these words is- it isn’t what we say that defines our character, it’s what we do.
Today, in a society obsessed with content, outrage, and drama, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with negative emotions. In Meditations, Marcus Aurelius goes into detail about Stoic strategies for mastering our feelings of anger. He says:
“Keep this thought handy when you feel a fit of rage coming on—it isn’t manly to be enraged. Rather, gentleness and civility are more human, and therefore manlier. A real man doesn’t give way to anger and discontent, and such a person has strength, courage, and endurance—unlike the angry and complaining. The nearer a man comes to a calm mind, the closer he is to strength.” – Marcus Aurelius
Furthermore, he added, “… And when you do become angry, be ready to apply this thought, that to fly into a passion is not a sign of manliness, but rather, to be kind and gentle. For insofar as these qualities are more human, they are also more manly. It is the man who possesses such virtues who has strength, nerve, and fortitude, and not one who is ill-humoured and discontented. Indeed, the nearer a man comes in his mind to freedom from unhealthy passions [apatheia], the nearer he comes to strength. Just as grief is a mark of weakness, so is anger too, for those who yield to either have been wounded and have surrendered to the enemy. ”
Feelings are our choice: We choose anger over calm; we choose fear over courage; we choose misery over joy. Which choice is more productive and which one is more more poisonous?
If there is one lesson to choose from Stoicism, it should always be: choosing Kindness over Anger.