The Daily Stoic for April 10th, “Judgments cause disturbance”.
“It isn’t events themselves that disturb people, but only their judgments about them.”
—EPICTETUS, ENCHIRIDION, 5
Some weeks ago, by mid March, the stoic meditation, “Timeless Wisdom“, talked about this topic. How events are not good or bad per se, only our judgments about them.
Back then, I wrote:
However, if my son dies in a terrible car accident in front of my eyes, I can hardly see how Stoicism can prevent me from seeing this as something bad. Conversely, if I save the life of an old woman who’s drowning at the sea, that’s a good act, independently of who’s that person I just saved.
I still think the same way. I don’t believe Stoicism would ever convince me that no act is good or evil. One might argue that our judgments can modify our perception of a situation.
However, if someone develops a vaccine against cancer, saving millions of present and future lives, that’s a good situation. Without any other far-fetched twist added to the mix, this simple example invalidates this Stoic teaching of “no act is good or evil, but our judgment of it”.
Judgments Cause Disturbance
What I can accept, nonetheless, is that in less categorical-terms, our judgment greatly influences how we perceive a situation.
That’s absolutely true. It’s clearly represented by the popular “seeing the glass half empty or half full” saying.
In my view, it’s not a matter of stripping any even from its meaning, or avoiding “feeling” either way about it. It’s all about being able to accept everyday’s situations, specially what we cannot change.
Bad shit is going to happen to you eventually. Instead of asking “why me?”, I think it’s far more positive to ask “ok, what can I do to change this?”. And if the answer is still “nothing”, you can still decide to focus on other positive things. We only live once.
Personally, after a terrible visit to the dentist, and some bad news, today’s one of those days when I really needed a reflection like this. Life always goes on, and I strongly believe that focusing on the bright side of things and don’t allowing negativity putting you down makes things work in the end.
Today’s Daily Stoic, “Judgments cause disturbance”, contains a similar meditation to “Timeless Wisdom” from some weeks ago. While I still believe that this teaching cannot be applied categorically, and situations can be universally bad or good, I also think that our judgment, or seeing the glass “half full” instead of “half empty”, can improve a lot our perception of things.