Epictetus part 28: Don’t Let Others Control You

The twenty-eighth paragraph of Epictetus’ Encheiridion is very powerful. I have always liked this one, because it shows us in a short text what many people – myself included – often don’t realize: we put ourselves at the mercy of others. And that can turn out to be disastrous. Epictetus tells us we are fools to depend on other people for our happiness. If we don’t entrust our body to the care of others, why would any well-thinking person hand over his mind to the whims of other people?

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If somebody handed over your body to a passer-by, you would be furious. But that you entrust your mind to anyone who happens to be at a certain place, where if he scorns you he can confuse and wreck you, don’t you feel shame for that?

And yet we often do this. We are glad if someone compliments us and sad if someone reproaches us. Don’t you like to hear how clever or beautiful or strong you are? And don’t you hate it when somebody thinks you are stupid or rude? Why? Because the opinions of other people matter to you.

A Stoic would try to prevent this. He would follow his own path and measure his worth only by his own measures, not by the words and opinions of others. A Stoic sets out on a journey to live in accordance with Nature and determines his progress using reason. He is not dependent on the good or bad will, the correct or false judgement of others. He depends on his capacity for reason. And that alone. Don’t get carried away by the whims of others. Follow the path you have set out for yourself. Use your capacity for reason. And instead of being a slave to random people, control your own mind.

This article is part of the weekly Epictetus series. New articles will be published every Monday. Be sure you don’t miss any of them by subscribing here. Thanks!

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