“Good people will do what they find honorable to do, even if it requires hard work; they’ll do it even if it causes them injury; they’ll do it even if it will bring danger. Again, they won’t do what they find base, even if it brings wealth, pleasure, or power. Nothing will deter them from what is honorable, and nothing will lure them into what is base.”SENECA, MORAL LETTERS, 76.18
I feel like author Ryan Holiday really whiffed on his explanation of today’s quote in The Daily Stoic. He tried to flip the meaning of Seneca’s quote above into an opposite, and use that statement and hope that the logic still holds, but it doesn’t really.
And I just outright disagree with these statements: “If doing good was easy, everyone would do it. (And if doing bad wasn’t tempting or attractive, nobody would do it.)” People would do good or bad regardless — it’s not nearly as basic as how easy or attractive the options are. That’s a gross oversimplification.
The sort of guilt-trippy ending to today’s chapter also kind of rubs me the wrong way. I guess every author is only human, but it feels like Holiday mailed it in on this one.
Alright, I don’t do this often, but I’m going to attempt to reinterpret what Seneca was trying to indicate in the quote at the beginning of today’s entry, and see if I can suss out the wisdom. Here goes:
People who seek to do the right thing (“Good people” as Seneca calls them) will do the right thing no matter what, even if it’s hard or painful.
These same people are unwilling to do wrong even if tempted by riches or rewards, because it wouldn’t sit well with them. Doing wrong would feel misaligned with their soul and their duty. They won’t be swayed by illusions or delusions. They won’t be fooled as their duty is tied to their true nature, and it’s clear to them.
Only you can complete your duty, because it was assigned to you. And you need to do it no matter what! But it doesn’t have to be a chore, it can be a joy if you’ll let it.