Stoicism is an ancient philosophy popular in Greece and Rome that emphasized virtue and self-control, among other things.
While some Stoic teachings are at odds with Christianity, others offer great practical advice for those of us overwhelmed by our fast-paced world.
Here are four things you can learn from the Stoics to have a happier, more peaceful life.
1. Slow down.
Stoics resisted the urge to go with the flow. They recognized the importance of slowing down and using their reason to judge what actions were most prudent in a given situation.
Too often we let ourselves get caught up in the hustle and bustle of modern life. We quickly justify immoral actions for the sake of getting ahead.
For example, maybe your boss is pressuring you to take part in a shady financial transaction. It’s easy to let that pressure make you rationalize the action. But if you slow down and think about the negative consequences to follow, you’ll find more strength to say no.
As Christians, we go beyond the Stoics. We don’t slow down merely to focus on ourselves, but more so to reorient ourselves to spiritual things.
2. Do a nighttime reflection.
The ancient Stoic Seneca recommended this practice. It’s similar to the Christian examination of conscience.
Seneca reflected on everything he had done during the day, including his thoughts, words, and deeds. He didn’t shy away from discovering his vices.
This practice is a great way to grow in holiness. Take time before bed to do an examination of your day. Have the guts to call yourself out for your failing, but also humbly recognize your accomplishments and thank God for them.
3. Do a morning reflection.
The revered Stoic Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, instructs us to prepare ourselves in the morning for whatever we will encounter that day. This includes the busybodies and rude and ungrateful folks we’re liable to meet.
Creating realistic expectations for your day is not meant to foster pessimism. Marcus Aurelius says that we are all put on this earth to learn to cooperate with each other. See these unsavory figures as a way to practice charity and humility.
4. Don’t rush to judge someone.
Marcus Aurelius reminds us that those who annoy us often see their actions as sensible. In other words, most of them aren’t intentionally trying to hurt us.
Recognizing this point prevents you from losing your cool and doing something you’ll later regret. Be patient with people. You usually don’t know what they’re going through. Try to get them to see the light. If that fails, continue on with your day in peace.
You’ve probably noticed that many of these practices resemble Christian ones. Yet, many Christians today don’t incorporate them into their lives.
The benefits, though, are enormous, so why not give them a try?