We’d like to think that our mind is our friend, but of course it isn’t. The Stoics knew this. The mind wants to jump to conclusions. The mind wants us to get worked up. The mind wants not to be challenged, not to have to admit it was wrong. That’s why they worked so hard to question their assumptions, to build strategies for questioning their own thinking and not being at the mercy of it.
This is very hard to do. We see the inability to do it manifest in our social media feeds and internet comment sections and of course in our own opinions on a regular basis. Someone brings up something bad, something serious: The unethical conduct of a politician you support. An example of brutal racism or injustice. A mistake you made. And how do we respond? It’s inflective. It’s immediate: “But what about ______?! But where are the ______ on _______?! But are you saying you don’t care about looting and riots?! But just last week, you did something worse!!!”
As if pointing out another wrong cancels out the first one. As if you can just change the subject and won’t have to deal with the problem at hand. That’s not how this works. “Whataboutism” is the sign of a weak mind. It’s the sign of someone who is not in control of themselves, who is not wise, who is easily susceptible to tolerating, even being complicit in injustices.
A Stoic looks at the world and at themselves unflinchingly. Marcus Aurelius thanked people who proved him wrong. Epictetus said we had to put our opinions to the test. You have to be strong enough to entertain disagreements, you have to be able to discuss and debate in good faith. It’s the snowflakes who fly into a rage when someone challenges their views. It’s the snowflakes who can never admit they’re wrong or address deserved criticism.
You’re better than that. Stronger and wiser than that too.