Stoicism: When Words and Thoughts Overpower Your Courage

“It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinions than our own.” — Marcus Aurelius

We like to think of ourselves as free and authors of our own life. What we don’t realize is we let others control ourselves with insignificant matters. It doesn’t matter how strong we seem: when the opinions of others invade our lives, we let our guard down and let them control our actions, thoughts, and relationships.

It is ridiculous how much we live for others. Don’t get me wrong, living for other people, in terms of service and fellowship, is something everyone should aspire to. However, we let external opinions manipulate our minds, leaving behind our ability to think for ourselves. In other words, we become slaves to those we think are worthy of judging us.

When I was in high school, I saw how people sitting next to me suffered rejection and were victims of mockery just for being different. I saw how they looked around, asking for help. Still, I did nothing. I did nothing because I was afraid of being molested; I didn’t want to expose myself and let others saw me as a weirdo. I even participated in this dire actions just because I wanted to be part of the group. Now that I think of it, I realize how stupid I was. These people, the abusers, the offenders, the oppressors, wanted attention, and in our ignorance, we gave it to them.

I was blind. I wanted the approval of those who weren’t worth a damn thing, and I rejected the friendship of those who could have given me some light. It is too late for me to help them, and it’s useless to change the past. But it’s not late to change the future.

As the Stoic scholars of old taught, we’ll always be at the mercy of other people if we care about what they think of us, either good or wrong. Remember, the only opinion that counts is ours and, in some cases, the advice we receive from our true friends. When we get rid of this evil, we’ll be capable of living a virtuous life, and even better, we’ll be able to fight and protect other people.

“You and I won’t find much joy while we’re here, but we can keep others alive. We can defend those who can’t defend themselves… Maybe we don’t need to understand any more than that. Maybe that’s enough.” — Game of Thrones

If you have the strength to defend the powerless, don’t be hesitant to stand up for what is right. If you lack the courage to protect your friends, try to seek help: there’s a great chance you’ll find someone who will help you hold the ignorant off. Don’t be scared of what others think of you, because you’ll grow and become a better person, while they will wither and stay birdbrained for ever.

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