It’s possible, Marcus Aurelius said, to not have an opinion. You don’t have to turn this into something, he reminds himself. You don’t have to let this upset you.
It’s not that the Stoics lived in a world where people didn’t do bad things or a world free from rudeness and cruelty. On the contrary—those things were far more prevalent in Rome than they are today. But what the Stoics worked on was not letting these things get to them, not letting it provoke them to anger.
If someone insulted Cato, he pretended not to hear it. When someone attacked Marcus Aurelius’s character, he tried to think about the character of the person saying it. When someone said something offensive to Epictetus, he told himself that if he got upset, he was as much to blame as they were. He also joked that if they really knew him, they’d be even more critical.
It wasn’t that the Stoics were apathetic or that they never tried to change the world. Clearly, they wouldn’t have been engaged in politics if all they cared about was the status quo. Why would Seneca have written those letters if he didn’t believe he could have an impact on people? It’s just that the Stoics saw only danger in getting angry. They refused to be provoked. They tamed their temper so they could do the work they believed they needed to do.
And that’s what you must do also. You don’t have to have an opinion. You don’t have to turn things into bigger things. You can control your emotions. You can do what you need to do.