When life deals you a terrible blow

Another thing to cope with is that life is very likely to provide terrible blows, unfair blows. Some people recover, and others don’t. And there I think the attitude of Epictetus helps guide one to the right reaction. 

He thought that every mischance in life, however bad, created an opportunity to behave well. He believed every mischance provided an opportunity to learn something useful. And one’s duty was not to become immersed in self-pity, but to utilize each terrible blow in a constructive fashion. His ideas were very sound, influencing the best of the Roman emperors, Marcus Aurelius, and many others over many centuries. 

And you may remember the epitaph that Epictetus made for himself: “Here lies Epictetus, a slave, maimed in body the ultimate in poverty, and favored by the Gods.” Well, that’s the way Epictetus is now remembered: “Favored by the Gods.” He was favored because he became wise, became manly, and instructed others, both in his own time and over following centuries.

Epictetus: His Morals

Control thy passions lest they take vengeance on thee. Do not seek to bring things to pass in accordance with your wishes, but wish for them as they are, and you will find them. First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak. He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has. If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid. It is impossible to begin to learn that which one thinks one already knows. It is not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. 

Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens. No man is free who is not master of himself. Only the educated are free. People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them. The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best. Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.

***Extracted from Poor Charlie’s Almanac***


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