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Even if I find the wisdom of the old Stoics generally good, I do not always agree with them. Some of their teachings or wisdomsimply require relativization. Or you have to put it in context. Today, I am concerned with such an example of Eptiktet. In ‘Enchiridion’ he writes:
‘Remember, it’s not the one who’s targeting you and attacking you that hurts you – no, the damage comes from how you think about this abuse. So when someone causes your anger, remember that it’s your own opinion that ignites the anger. Instead, your first reaction should be that you won’t be overwhelmed by such impressions, because with enough time and distance, self-control becomes much easier.’ Epiktet
What he means by this is simple and is also reflected in esoteric teachings: things, circumstances or events are not good or evil in themselves; good or bad. But they become good or bad events only through your assessment, through your judgment, through your thinking and feeling.
This does not primarily mean the content of our reaction. So whether we respond to an event, for example, react positively or negatively. But also whether you register the event at all, whether you participate in it.
For example, if someone leaves you a hate comment on facebook, but you don’t read it, is there a hate comment for you at all? No, because you are not participating in this ‘event’.
When a big company makes a few million profits, it’s different than winning a few million in the lottery. Because your context, your connection to this event is different.
If a colleague writes you an email out of anger, it’s up to you how to record it. How you rate them. What rating you give her. Whether it is good or bad – for you.
It is our reactions to events that give events a division into good or evil. In the end, you are the one who makes an evil event a bad event. Or make a good one a good one.
Mostly. Because here one has to relativize and find that there are events that do not become negative only by the reaction of a human being. Wars, violence per se is certainly one of them. Epiktet did not mean such events when he spoke of ‘attacks’.