The Daily Stoic: January 22, 2021

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

Reflections on The Daily Stoic:

  • The Discipline of Perception
  • January's Theme: Clarity
  • Topic: The Day in Review
  • Stoic: Seneca

Today's quote:

I will keep constant watch over myself and - most usefully - will put each day up for review. For this is what makes us evil - that none of us looks back upon our own lives. We reflect upon only that which we are about to do. And yet our plans for the future descend from the past.

- Moral Letters, 83.2

The Stoics practiced meditation both at the beginning and at the end of the day. Where Marcus Aurelius reflected each morning on how he would mentally approach the day ahead, here Seneca reflects each evening on his success or failure in his thoughts, choices, and actions in the day just completed.

I am reminded of the biblical practice of confession: assessing our thoughts, choices, and actions in light of God's law and will for our lives, and acknowledging where we have fallen short. And of course, we all do: "...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..." (Romans 3:23). Confession is merely acknowledging that we have fallen short, and asking for forgiveness.

If we do not engage in this practice, we set ourselves up for hardship. "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." (I John 1:8-9) "If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us." (I John 1:10). But when we do, God promises us that he will be merciful. "Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy." (Proverbs 28:13)

Some Christian traditions consider confession to be a sacrament, performed in a ritualistic manner, with a priest or other intercessor. Other traditions consider confession to be primarily a personal matter between the believer and God. But regardless of degree of formality, there are times when we need to edify one another by confessing our sins not just in our hearts to God, but to other believers. "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16)

This act of self-reflection and acknowledgement of our own failure is inherently an act of humility. But when we are humble, confess to God, and ultimately, acknowledge our reliance on Him, he will forgive and will uplift us. "Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." (James 4:8-10) "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9)