Beware of Fortune’s Gifts

“Atreus: Who would reject the flood of fortune’s gifts?
Thyestes: Anyone who has experienced how easily they flow back.”


In his book today, Ryan Holiday gives a little background on the play Thyestes and the context from which this quote is pulled. I’ll let you read it yourself rather than trying to restate it.

Despite that explanation, I’m still not clear on the meaning of Seneca’s words above — aside from effectively saying ‘beware of fortune’s gifts because they might be hiding tragedy’.

I think we all understand the risks of accepting slightly suspicious and too-good-to-be true gifts, but I’m not sure I understand the wisdom beyond that, and I don’t think we have to be afraid of every kind gesture that someone extends to us.

Holiday provides the missing clarity in the last sentence of today’s page in his book The Daily Stoic: “that our attraction toward what is new and shiny can lead us into serious trouble.” Fair enough, I can accept that.

Things may not be what they appear. If it seems too awesome to be true, then it’s probably a mirage, and may even be a disaster in disguise. Be wary of people who are looking to shower us with fortune — there is probably some other reason, and it’s not going to end well for us. Watch out for wolf-y friends. Don’t accept gifts from people with ulterior motives or who have incentive to take advantage of you.

I’m not generally a fan of fear-based wisdom, but this is sage advice and I can’t disagree with it. It all depends on your situation, I suppose!

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