It was said that Socrates saw his difficult marriage as a sort of challenge that life threw at him—that the fact that his wife’s personality and interests were often at odds with his own was something he could be made better for by being patient with. Certainly, Marcus Aurelius was tested by his difficult son, and likely spent many sleepless nights worrying about what would become of this boy who just couldn’t quite get it together.
So, too, are each of us tested by the difficult relationships that life throws our way. For some of us, that’s an absent father, for others, it’s a sister with a drug problem. We have co-workers who are drama queens, bosses who are assholes, and neighbors who are meddlesome. Each of these situations is a trial, one that challenges us and forces us to apply the lessons that we’ve learned in our reading and through our studies.
Can you learn how to love someone who has trouble loving back? Can you learn how to forgive someone for their flaws? Can you develop the self-control necessary to not lose your temper when they provoke you? Can you put up appropriate boundaries? Can you say “No” when it’s appropriate and say, “Yes” when someone really needs you, even when it would be easier to focus on your own needs?
Relationships test us, but they also teach us. They bring with them both obstacles and opportunities. What matters, then, is how we respond and who we become in the process. No one ever said that family or friendships would be easy—they just said the trouble would be worth it in the end.
P.S. For more Stoic wisdom on how to take life’s tests and turn them into triumphs, check out Ryan Holiday’s book The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph. The first in Ryan’s trilogy of books on Stoicism, The Obstacle is the Way has sold millions of copies and is beloved by men and women around the world, including NBA legend Chris Bosh to PGA Champion Rory McIlroy, pop star Camila Cabello, and the coaches and players of winning teams like the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, and Chicago Cubs.
You can also check out The Obstacle is the Way medallion which is inspired by the same insights from the Stoics and is awesome for carrying with you everywhere you go.