The divorce. The bankruptcy. The car accident. The night you’re having to spend at the airport. The business you poured your savings into that you now have to close because of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s not fun. It’s not fair. Why couldn’t it have happened to someone else?
When Stuart Scott found out he had cancer, when he knew that he would almost certainly die, you can imagine he thought all those things. How could he not? Yet, it was with profound grace that he refused to let that attitude take hold. When a friend asked if he ever thought, “Why me?” he said, “I have two girls that I love. I have a wonderful job that I love getting up for every day. Why not me? I’m about due.” When another friend said they wished they could take some of his cancer and suffer instead of him, he said, “I wouldn’t let you do it. I got it.”
This is what a Stoic does. Cato didn’t complain that the fight for the Roman Republic fell on him. Not once in Epictetus’s lectures do we see him bemoan the first thirty years of his life, stolen as they were by slavery. Nor do we see Marcus Aurelius, who had no desire to be emperor, who was beset by tragedy after tragedy in his life, try to shirk his burdens onto anyone else. On the contrary,
“It’s unfortunate that this has happened,” he wrote. “No. It’s fortunate that this has happened and I’ve remained unharmed by it—not shattered by the present or frightened of the future. It could have happened to anyone. But not everyone could have remained unharmed by it.”
Which is exactly what we have to say today, no matter how minor or major the difficulties that befall us. Why not me? I’m about due. No, I won’t let someone else take my place. I got it.