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    Always Be Humble and Kind

    Daily Stoic Emails

    We hear in Meditations Marcus Aurelius speak of “epithets for the self,” watchwords for his life. From Zeno to Marcus, the works of nearly every Stoic feature the repetition of four words, four virtues that go to the course of the philosophy: Courage. Justice. Moderation. Wisdom

    These are mantras. These are reminders. A kind of living oral and written tradition for how to live and what kind of person to be. As beautiful—and in some cases, perfect—as these expressions are, we should remember that it’s a living tradition, one that can be added to and improved. Marcus himself writes about how if anyone ever finds a better list than those four virtues, it must be an extraordinary thing indeed. 

    In 2016, the songwriter Lori McKenna took a stab at it. In a song that was written for her five young children and that has since become a hit for Tim McGraw (as well as a book), she puts together a pretty good list of rules, and in the chorus she captures them all in a wonderful, epigram for living:

    Visit grandpa every chance that you can
    It won’t be a waste of time
    Always stay humble and kind

    Hold the door say please say thank you
    Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie
    I know you got mountains to climb but
    Always stay humble and kind
    When the dreams you’re dreamin’ come to you
    When the work you put in is realized
    Let yourself feel the pride but
    Always stay humble and kind

    Don’t expect a free ride from no one
    Don’t hold a grudge or a chip and here’s why
    Bitterness keeps you from flying
    Always stay humble and kind
    Know the difference between sleeping with someone
    And sleeping with someone you love
    I love you ain’t no pick up line so
    Always stay humble and kind

    Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you
    When you get where you’re goin’
    Don’t forget turn back around
    Help the next one in line
    Always stay humble and kind

    Not bad. Courage. Justice. Moderation. Wisdom. It’s all there. Stay humble and kind out there.

    P.S. This was originally sent on October 15, 2020. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism.