The Daily Stoic: January 9, 2021

Filed in PhilosophyTags: Clarity, Daily Stoic, Epictetus, Perception

Reflections on The Daily Stoic:

  • The Discipline of Perception
  • January's Theme: Clarity
  • Topic: What We Control and What We Don't
  • Stoic: Epictetus

Today's quote:

Some things are in our control, while others are not. We control our opinion, choice, desire, aversion, and, in a word, everything of our own doing. We don't control our body, property, reputation, position, and, in a word, everything not of our own doing. Even more , the things in our control are by nature free, unhindered, and unobstructed, while those not in our control are weak, slavish, can be hindered, and are not our own.

- Enchiridion, 1.1-2

Here, Epictetus echoes sentiments from Discourses, that we considered on January 1st, about differentiating between what is within and what is outside of our control. Beyond our own thoughts, choices, and actions, everything else is really outside of our control.

Our bodies? We may gain greater and greater understanding of biology, chemistry, and physiology - understanding that enables us to make better decisions about care for our bodies, as well as diagnosis and treatment for disorders and diseases of our bodies. But we have no direct control over the cells, hormonal, metabolic, genetic, or other processes of our bodies.

Even so, as Christians, we must strive to be good stewards, even masters, of our own bodies. "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." (I Corinthians 6:19-20) "Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." (I Corinthians 9:26-27)

Property? Homes can be lost to natural disasters, accidents, even taxes. Automobiles and material possessions can be lost to accidents, theft, and age/deterioration. Wealth can be lost to economic downturns or changes to economic policy.

As Christians, we know that our ultimate wealth and possessions are not earthly. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)

Reputation? We certainly contribute to our reputation, but in the end, we cannot control the perceptions or opinions of others.

As Christians, we are instructed to act in ways that contribute to positive reputation. "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold." (Proverbs 22:1) We also understand that it is only our reputation before God that truly matters. "But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”" (I Samuel 16:7) "So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man." (Acts 24:16) "May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer." (Psalm 19:14)

As Christians, we understand that, ultimately, God is in control. "Be still, and know that I am God..." (Psalm 46:10) This understanding informs our assent regarding those things that we cannot control. Regardless of what happens to us in this life - everything that is outside of our control - our ultimate hope is in Him. "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." (I Peter 1:3-7)