Hurt is OK

There is a line from Winston Churchill’s daughter after observing an encounter with FDR and one of the president’s notorious episodes of rudeness and ego. She would say “The president’s behavior hurt my father; it did not unman him.” By that she means he didn’t lose his temper, he didn’t respond in kind. He simply took the blow, forgave and forgot it. Churchill certainly did nothing to jeopardize their alliance on which so many lives depended.

The Stoics talk a big game about how nothing can hurt us but our own perceptions, but one suspects that in practice, they acted a bit closer to how Churchill acted. Sure, their feelings might be hurt from time to time—they were human after all. What was important was that they didn’t let this unman them.

Marcus would say things can only really hurt you if they hurt your character (which is to say only you can do that). It’s the same idea. Someone’s behavior can cut us deeply, even shock us with its needlessness and disrespect. Ok. But it cannot unman us, it cannot damage our character. That’s our domain.

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