The Daily Stoic for October 7th, “A Selfish Reason To Be Good”.
“The person who does wrong, does wrong to themselves. The unjust person is unjust to themselves—making themselves evil.”—MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 9.4
Today’s stoic meditation is all about “not doing wrong things” because “when we do things wrong, we feel bad”. While that’s true, I think today’s stoic misses a very important point:
Nobody thinks they are wrong.
A Selfish Reason To Be Good
All parties in a discussion thing they are right. Both countries in a war think they have the truth, or god it’s on their side. Being wrong, acknowledging you are wrong, it’s not easy.
So maybe instead of asking people to not do wrong things, describing how bad they will feel afterwards, it would be better to make you reflect on the myriad of times where you thought you were right. But you weren’t.
Right and wrong are subjective terms. They depend on the view of the observer. Two people will see a scene in a completely different light.
So yes, while it’s true that we can agree that we’ll feel sorry after acting wrong, it’s the definition of “wrong” here that posses the problem.
The solution? Some days ago we talked about empathy. Maybe it’s time to develop it more, and acknowledge that our “rights” may be someone else’s “wrongs”. I think that, after that, we’ll be in the position of deciding that we don’t want to act in a wrong way, because then we’ll feel sorry afterwards.
I sometimes don’t honestly know if I’m acting right or wrong until later. I’m not perfect, and I do mistakes. I usually only realize I’ve done something wrong after the damage is done. While stoicism helps, it will eventually happen. So it’s not just a matter of acting right for selfish reasons, but realizing when the opposite occurs.
Today’s Daily Stoic, “A Selfish Reason To Be Good”, discusses not acting in a wrong way, if for selfish reasons. I think first we should define that wrong or right are subjective terms.
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