“When you first rise in the morning tell yourself: I will encounter busybodies, ingrates, egomaniacs, liars, the jealous and cranks. They are all stricken with these afflictions because they don’t know the difference between good and evil. Because I have understood the beauty of good and the ugliness of evil, I know that these wrong-doers are still akin to me… and that none can do me harm, or implicate me in ugliness — nor can I be angry at my relatives or hate them. For we are made for cooperation.”MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 2.1
In today’s quote, Marcus seems to be telling us to prepare each morning for the likelihood that we will run into some assholes that day. There will be obnoxious people that we’ll have to interact with — people who don’t give a whit for us or what’s important to us, and might even try to steamroll us in the pursuit of what they want.
I was a sensitive kid, and this type of personality really rocked my world when I came into contact with them. Jerks were a shock to my system — it was hard for me to understand how there were people like this in the world, who could act like this. I see that same sensitivity in my children, and I want to help protect them but also prepare them. I want to teach them how to prepare for negative people.
Because the truth is you can’t truly avoid all negative people. They’re everywhere, in every country, in every workplace, and in every scenario. The only thing you can control is how you’re going to react to them, and it’s best to know what you’re going to do in advance. It’s a good idea to steel yourself, and get ready for that negativity.
You can’t stop them cold. You can’t change them. But what you can do is have a little sympathy. That’s the part that stands out to me in the quote above, the part where it says they are “stricken with these afflictions”. Almost like we should have pity on them! And that we should remember that it could easily be us on a different day, being jerks like this. They are “akin to me” says Marcus, meaning they’re not so different from us.
Therefore The Daily Stoic today reminds us that “the point of this preparation is not to write everyone off in advance.” We should prepare for, but not shun, negative people. We’re going to come into contact with them whether we like it or not. We shouldn’t hate the haters, but rather have compassion and patience with them.
It doesn’t mean we should let them take advantage of us — far from it. “We are made for cooperation” says Marcus above, but he also says that we are master of our own domain, and the negativity of another person doesn’t have to overreach into our lives. We are master of our own affairs.
But when we inevitably run into those nasty folks, we can show some understanding while simultaneously remembering that it doesn’t have to affect us at all, especially if we’re prepared for it.