According to the great Jesuit Monk Anthony DeMello, there are three intellectual feats that we struggle with on a regular basis, that are harder than just about any physical activity on the planet. Just three. They are, he said, in this order:
- Returning love for hate.
- Including the excluded.
- Admitting you are wrong.
This is not a modern affliction. De Mello, while certainly observing the world he was trying serve, was also tapping into an ancient idea with which the Stoics would have wholly agreed:
“If you must be affected by other people’s misfortunes, show them pity instead of contempt. Drop this readiness to hate.” —Epictetus
“No school has more goodness and gentleness; none has more love for human beings, nor more attention to the common good. The goal which it assigns to us is to be useful, to help others, and to take care, not only of ourselves, but of everyone in general and of each one in particular.” —Seneca
“If anyone can refute me—show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective—I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.” —Marcus Aurelius
If you were weak and looking to get stronger physically, you’d go to the gym. You’d hire a trainer. You’d watch videos to learn new exercises. You’d work at it. That’s how muscles are built.
If you were ignorant and looking to get smarter or sharper mentally, you’d read books. You’d hire a tutor. You’d play brain games and solve puzzles. You’d work at it. That’s how knowledge is accumulated and intellect is built.
Today, think about how you might strengthen your soul. Search for ways to be kinder, more inclusive, and more open-minded. Build your spirit, like you would sculpt your body or fill your mind. You can be the light that you, yourself, sometimes need.
There are fewer of those than any other type, which makes it way more important.