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Remember that People Avoid the Truth

Daily Stoic Emails

Time and time again, we hear the Stoics tell us to say what is right, to do what is right, to be comfortable swimming upstream or rejecting the choices of the mob. Marcus Aurelius said this. Seneca said it. Cato said it. Nassim Taleb says it still today.

What usually goes unsaid alongside these inspiring calls—whether it’s “If you see fraud, say fraud” or “If it’s not right do not do it, if it’s not true do not say it”—is anything about the consequences. Because while history admires whistleblowers and men and women of principles, their contemporaries often have the opposite reaction. Because speaking the truth and standing up for what’s right is an implicit rebuke of the status quo. It challenges people’s identities. It indicts them for not doing the same. 

This is important to know and to constantly remind oneself of. It’s almost like you need to do a premeditatio malorum for what happens when you commit to being a good and honest and courageous person. Because it’s not going to be easy. People are not going to throw you a parade. They’re much more likely to throw brickbats. Or insults.

But you have to do what you think is right, and, as Marcus Aurelius said, treat the rest like it doesn’t matter. Who cares if they unsubscribe from your emails? Who cares if they report you? Or try to take away your sponsors? Try to run against you in a primary election? Or leave nasty comments? Or try to bully you? 

Because the truth is that none of these things matter. Or at least, they don’t matter more than your duty.

P.S. This was originally sent on November 14, 2019. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism.