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You Do Not Need This

Daily Stoic Emails

You want it, don’t you?

That “I told you so.” That “Thank You.” That recognition for being first, or being better, or being different. You want credit. You want gratitude. You want the acknowledgement for the good you’ve done, for the weight that you carry.

What you want is what Marcus Aurelius has called “the third thing,” because you’re not content enough with the doing. “When you’ve done well and another has benefited by it,” he writes, “why like a fool do you look for a third thing on top—credit for the good deed or a favor in return?”

Now, “fool” is a strong word, but the point stands. Why can’t the deed be enough? Was a pat on the back really the reason you decided to value the truth? Is that why you helped someone? Did you leave a big tip to that waitress or driver who was clearly struggling so they’d run out and thank you—or did you do it because you knew that it was right? Do you take your lonely stand because it will look cool, or because it was unconscionable to you to throw in with the mob?

You don’t need a favor back. You don’t need to be repaid. You don’t need to be acknowledged. You don’t need the third thing. That’s not why you do what you do. You’re good because it’s good to be good, and that’s all you need.

P.S. This was originally sent on September 14, 2020. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism.