“Take away thy opinion, and there is taken away the complaint, “I have been harmed.” Take away the complaint, “I have been harmed,” and the harm is taken away.”
This is one of the short passages that Marcus Aurelius wrote down in his common place book in the second century, and it is one of my favorite quotes in the work which was published after his death as Meditations. His views and ideas about stoicism are shared throughout his writing, and the quote above is one of the best examples of what stoicism is, and how it can be implemented in our lives. Taking control of the mind is a central part of stoicism, and controlling our thoughts leads to better actions, controlled behavior, and choices that lead to better life outcomes.
Aurelius’ quote above shows how important our thoughts and perceptions can be. It shows how frequently we filter everything in our lives through a good or bad lens, and what we are truly doing when we look at the world in such a way. How we respond and what we think is very often shaped by how we perceive an event. If we think that something is good while it is happening or being said, then we are more likely to be moved to participate with it. When someone says something that we view as being wrong or negative, we react by pushing against what was said and holding ourselves in opposition to the individual or group that said it.
For Aurelius, the stoic emperor, the goals was to live without opinion and to be able to open perspective to take in all angles of an event. He strained to see the world objectively by taking away his opinion, and examining the world in the way it is, and not how he wanted it to be. This is never an easy task as it does not eliminate all perspective, but it helps us begin to see things and think about things from the perspective of others. Abandoning opinion and not needing to deem every situation or occurrence as good or bad allows us to grow and connect with others in new ways. We become better at understanding the motives and actions of others, and we can make better decisions that do not intentionally ostracize or damage another.