Life is hard. There are floods and fires. Tyrants and train wrecks. Plagues that are so unpredictable, people who are so frustrating, and fortune which does as she so pleases.
We don’t control any of that. We don’t control what happens to us. We don’t control how hard life is for the people we care about. But you know what we do control? We do control whether or not we make things harder for others.
As we celebrate Pride Month here in the U.S., it is a good time to ask ourselves, am I making life harder for others? Imagine how difficult it would be to be born into a world where you feel like you don’t quite fit in, where you’re not quite sure who you are, and where you have a very real sense that some people (perhaps even your own parents) will treat you differently for simply being true to yourself. Imagine what it must have been like to be a gay person born in the 1950s—when even an accusation was enough to wreck your career and carefully constructed life. Imagine how disorienting it would be if your gender was even a question you needed to consider for more than a second.
We could go through a thousand other thought exercises but we don’t need to. The point is: it’s tough. Maybe that’s not your struggle, maybe you have plenty of your own struggles. But as Marcus reminds us, any harm to the bee harms the hive. And in fact, Marcus Aurelius’ and Junius Rusticus‘ example is a more powerful statement: The persecution of the Christians–which was then a fledgling and misunderstood religion–is a terrible black mark on the Stoics and their philosophy. If you can’t celebrate and be accepting of how others live, you can at least strive to not make their lives harder. You can at least leave them alone.