Troubles Illuminate Character

“How does it help, my husband, to make misfortune heavier by complaining about it? This is more fit for a king — to seize your adversities head on. The more precarious his situation, the more imminent his fall from power, the more firmly he should be resolved to stand and fight. It isn’t manly to retreat from fortune.”


Every once in a while, I read these quotes in The Daily Stoic, and kind of wonder about the translation. Some of the wording feels very casual and informal, which is fine. It makes these old guys feel less stodgy and certainly helps makes them more understandable, more approachable.

But I’m not sure why it says “my husband”. Surely Seneca wasn’t speaking to his husband, so it must be some ancient and formal way of referring to your superior or your mentor. I wonder if that could be translated into today’s language in a way that’s clearer.

And I’m not sure how I feel about the last line where it says “It isn’t manly to retreat from fortune.” You have to wonder about manly in this context, and whether that’s really what Seneca meant to convey. I wonder if a different translation would yield a better and more accurate word here. Personally, I’m not overly concerned with being manly. There’s enough masculinity in our culture, thank you very much.

Yes but what about today’s wisdom?

Okay, okay, back to the actual wisdom of today’s entry, as revealed in the quote by Seneca.

Adversity shows what you’re made of. Will you “stand and fight” when faced with unforeseen challenges, or will you buckle and bail out?

How you handle adversity reveals a lot about your character. It’s how you approach life in general. And it’s a pretty big bellwether of whether you’re going to see success in your pursuits.

Will you rise to meet this new problem? Will you view the problem as a challenge just waiting to be overcome, an opportunity to show what you’re made of?

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