Opinion

Sage insight from Stoic philosophy

To the editor:


Don?t take it personally is good advice most of the time.


It goes along with the idea found in Stoic philosophy that no one can hurt your feelings unless you let them hurt your feelings.


It derives from the notion that we are capable of deciding in the moment that something hurtful expressed to us has nothing to do with us and we don?t need to take it personally. Sounds OK, right?


It even makes perfect sense. The problem is that is not how human beings are. We are emotional beings with feelings that cannot be controlled-only understood and accepted. In other words, we will have feelings - our feelings will be hurt at times - but we do not have to act on our feelings. We can feel what we feel and then decide how to respond.


The more practical advice is to not react but respond to hurtful things said and done. That is the true work of recovery. And progress can be slow. It takes time and patience to grow spiritually.


What of the instances when people say things that are dishonest, that are self-serving and clearly not in our best interests? We still do not have to take it personally.


But we can do what we need to do to take care of ourselves. Always remember, we do not have to take it at all. We can decide what to do about it.


Never let someone who is abusive, manipulative, controlling, dishonest or exploiting you in some way let you think you shouldn?t take it personally when you really don?t have to take it at all. It is OK to have boundaries. And it is OK to make sure the people in your life respect them. That is a recovery principle, too. The primary goal, however, is to protect your self, not attack the other person.


Most people who say mean things are unhappy themselves - misery loves company. They are miserable and unhappy and they may want you to be miserable and unhappy, too. Yes, we do not need to take it personally and we can even have compassion and understanding for our tormentor.


But it is always OK to take care of ourselves first. Then love and forgive and respond according to our cherished beliefs and values.


It is true that one day we may become enlightened - so full of love for everyone including our selves that anything said or done to us cannot penetrate our hearts or lead to any hurt feelings. But until then we all have to respond to life as it is, not how we wish it to be or want it to be. And how to change the world? Make it a better place? Be the change we want to see in the world. Try to be as kind, loving, and generous as we can be in a sincere and honest way. Not easy but always worth the effort.


The most important thing to emphasize in recovery is that we are never alone in our our effort to grow spiritually or to help others grow spiritually. Our higher power-our belief in God whatever we conceive God to be-is always with us, guiding us,showing us the way.?


Have faith in God? is the answer to all life?s questions. But then also seek his will with courage and faith.God helps those who help themselves.


 


? Jim Turner, Fairfield