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Marcus Aurelius on Perception
Marcus Aurelius on Acceptance

Marcus Aurelius on Action

In Meditations, Marcus Aurelius writes about the need to take responsibility for the things in our control.

“Our own worth is measured by what we devote our energy to.” (7.3)

To tie our well-being to our actions alone:

“Ambition means tying your well-being to what other people say or do. Self-indulgence means tying it to the things that happen to you. Sanity means tying it to your own actions.” (6.51)

To choose our actions based on what’s right, not on what other people think:

"The tranquillity that comes when you stop caring what they say. Or think, or do. Only what you do. (Is this fair? Is this the right thing to do?)" (4.18)

To not respond to hate in kind:

“Someone despises me. That’s their problem. Mine: not to do or say anything despicable. Someone hates me. Their problem. Mine: to be patient and cheerful with everyone, including them. Ready to show them their mistake. Not spitefully, or to show off my own self-control, but in an honest, upright way.” (11.13)

To feel compassion for those who hurt us...

“When people injure you, ask yourself what good or harm they thought would come of it. If you understand that, you’ll feel sympathy rather than outrage or anger. Your sense of good and evil may be the same as theirs, or near it, in which case you have to excuse them. Or your sense of good and evil may differ from theirs. In which case they’re misguided and deserve your compassion. Is that so hard?” (7.26)

...and to act kindly towards them:

“That kindness is invincible, provided it’s sincere— not ironic or an act. What can even the most vicious person do if you keep treating him with kindness and gently set him straight— if you get the chance— correcting him cheerfully at the exact moment that he’s trying to do you harm. “No, no, my friend. That isn’t what we’re here for. It isn’t me who’s harmed by that. It’s you.” And show him, gently and without pointing fingers, that it’s so. That bees don’t behave like this— or any other animals with a sense of community. Don’t do it sardonically or meanly, but affectionately— with no hatred in your heart. And not ex cathedra or to impress third parties, but speaking directly. Even if there are other people around.” (11.18)

To use our problems as fuel:

“Just as nature takes every obstacle, every impediment, and works around it— turns it to its purposes, incorporates it into itself— so, too, a rational being can turn each setback into raw material and use it to achieve its goal.” (8.35)

To eliminate what’s unnecessary:

"Most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time, and more tranquillity. Ask yourself at every moment, “Is this necessary?” But we need to eliminate unnecessary assumptions as well. To eliminate the unnecessary actions that follow." (4.24)

To act selflessly:

"Some people, when they do someone a favor, are always looking for a chance to call it in. And some aren’t, but they’re still aware of it— still regard it as a debt. But others don’t even do that. They’re like a vine that produces grapes without looking for anything in return." (5.6)

To not be angry:

“How much more damage anger and grief do than the things that cause them.” (11.18)

And as for revenge…

"The best revenge is not to be like that." (6.6)

See also:

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