We Have Met The Enemy And He Is Us

When working on making progress it is important to guard against ourselves. When life throws you a curve or someone chews you out, the first inclination of a human being is to look outward for the cause. Epictetus (Handbook 48) counsels that this is the path of the uneducated person; a philosopher will do the opposite.
[1] The condition and character of the uneducated person is this: they never look for benefit or harm to come from themselves, but from external things. The condition and character of the philosopher is this: they look for every benefit and harm to come from themselves. [2] The signs that someone is making progress are these: they blame no one, they praise no one, they find fault with no one, they accuse no one, they never say anything of themselves as though they amount to something or know anything. When they are impeded or hindered, they blame themselves. If someone praises them, they laugh inwardly at the person who praises them, and if anyone censures them, they make no defence. They go about as if they were sick, cautious not to disturb what is healing before they are fully recovered. [3] They have rid themselves of all desires, and have transferred their aversion to only those things contrary to nature that are in our power. They have no strong preferences in regard to anything. If they appear foolish or ignorant, they do not care. In a word, they keep guard over themselves as though they are their own enemy lying in wait.

Recently, I had an incident with a friend of mine from school. I had invited him to a hash event, where many vulgar songs are sung. One of the songs offended him sufficiently that he left early and hasn't spoken with me since. My initial reaction was to apologize for offending him, but as time went on, I found more and more reasons to blame him. This is a mistake on my part.

It's like this: If he was oversensitive, so be it. I have no control over that, I only have control over my own actions. It does me no good to speculate as to his motivations or resent him for his actions. The only beneficial act I can take is to examine my own actions.

Yours truly,
Mr. X



johnny law said...

I've often told myself that I'm not responsible for the actions (or reactions) of others. It's wise advice - insomuch as it should keep one from obsessing, feeling guilty, etc. - but I hardly take it.

Now, with our friend here, I don't think anyone can truly understand ANY of his actions. It's futile and thus best you've put it behind you.

Myke said...

Good thinking, but just be careful that you don't blame yourself unnecessarily. Sometimes the best way to help your friend is to stand up for the correct position, even when it puts you in the right. Consider the facts and stand on them. If you're right, then you're right. If your actions warrant change, then change them. But if they don'tm make sure you don't.

Anonymous said...

If you were clear with your friend about what exactly a hash entails, then you are not to blame for his being offended. However, if you led him into a situation as potentially vulgar as a hash without warning him then you're guilty of a breach of etiquette.


"isobel" said...

Epictetus rocks....Regardless of how this particular situation plays out, the advice is solid.

Mr. X said...

As an update, things are cordial between us again and while I apologized for any perceived offense, I did not change my position where I thought I was in the right.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...tying loose ends...