Note: this is the fifth part of a weekly series, discussing the works of Epictetus. The first 53 parts are devoted to his Enchiridion (Handbook). A new post will be released every monday morning.
On our Stoic Journey, we have arrived at a key passage: the fifth paragraph of the Enchiridion. The first sentence of this paragraph is one of my favourite quotes from Epictetus and, indeed, a representation of a major concept of stoicism: our worry is only in our minds.
Men are not disturbed by things, but by their opinions of things
He continues to explain that even death is nothing bad. After all, it is natural and bound to happen. Even the great philosopher Socrates, who is considered as a prime example of virtue, didn’t fear death and drank the poison to which he was sentenced:
Thus death is nothing terrible (else it would have appeared so to Socrates), except that our opinion of death – that it is terrible – is terrible.
Therefore, Epictetus states, it is of no use to blame others for your misfortune or bad conditions. Likewise, it is useless to blame yourself for something that happens no matter what you do.
So, whenever we are bothered or disturbed or grieved, let us never blame others, but ourselves, namely our own opinions. It is the act of an immature person to reproach others for the evil that befalls himself; of a person that has started to mature to reproach himself; and of a matured person to neither reproach another nor himself.