“Whenever you suffer pain, keep in mind that it’s nothing to be ashamed of and that it can’t degrade your guiding intelligence, nor keep it from acting rationally and for the common good. And in most cases you should be helped by the saying of Epicurus, that pain is never unbearable or unending, so you can remember these limits and not add to them in your imaginations. Remember too that many common annoyances are pain in disguise, such as sleepiness, fever and loss of appetite. When they start to get you down, tell yourself you are giving in to pain.”MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 7.64
There’s a lot to unpack here in this quote from Marcus Aurelius in today’s entry in The Daily Stoic. It probably leaves a sour taste in the mouth of those who are in chronic pain right now, but it’s also referring to non-physical pain like mental and spiritual.
The author Ryan Holiday shares a few anecdotes about Winston Churchill and how he suffered great physical harm and pain in his life, but still was brave enough to be positive about it — and he let it go immediately.
Churchill realized what Epicurus said above: that pain is “never unbearable or unending”. Except for that pain which we extend or enhance in our minds, or with our actions. Those are the worst kinds of pain — that which we intentionally inflict on each other or ourselves.
But even so, in the end “all will be well”, Churchill wrote.
What’s the point?
Okay, so what’s the point here?
We mustn’t give in to pain, and we mustn’t lose hope against it, whether it’s physical or emotional.
Be brave, knowing that it cannot take more than you can give it. Learn from the pain, and get stronger in the soul.
And remember that you still have control of your rational mind, and it can still guide you to what is right and good.