How To Keep Your Cool (De Ira) by Seneca. Book blog part 6



“Where self-indulgence has ruined both the body and mind, nothing seems bearable, not because the task is hard but because the one doing it is soft.” (p.53)


The things that send us into a rage are often not as monumental as we think they are. It’s just that our threshold for what we tolerate is too low. The disturbance is not too difficult, we are too weak. This is the classic, “making a mountain out of a molehill.” When we get upset over little things, it reveals a deficiency in us.  

Whenever I suspect I might be making a big deal out of something, I try to imagine how I would explain it to someone. This imaginary conversation requires me to be honest with myself as I’m recounting the events that are making me angry. If I’m really seeking advice from someone, I have to be honest, or else I know I’m just looking for someone to agree with me. I know I don’t want to do that so I have to be honest in explaining the situation. When I do so, I try to imagine the look on the other person’s face. Or better yet, how would I react if someone brought this minor issue to me? What questions would I ask? What perspectives would I offer? What scripture would I apply? 

Removing myself from the issue and making myself an objective third party helps me react to the situation rationally. The question Seneca is asking here is, “is it a big deal, or are you just too soft?” This is a fair question. Today’s culture justifies and even advocates softness in people. It used to be the case that we had to learn to toughen up, grow a thick skin and deal with hard things that will inevitably come our way. But not today. Victimhood is seen as a posture of power. It shows strength through (fake) adversity. Speaking truth to power, and all that. We’re told that we’re perfect just the way we are and we don’t have to change anything about ourselves. Then when someone comes along and says, “you suck” we’re perplexed. “You suck,” is where we ought to start and spend our lives working our way up from there. 

We have to be reminded that we’re not the center of the universe. When we have this mindset, the little things won’t piss us off so bad. Someone cuts you off? So what? Who do you think you are that some minor annoyance should never happen to you? It’s not about self-deprecation, but rather self-identification. 

Seneca is right, self-indulgence will always lead to a soft mindset. People seeking only self-indulgent pleasure are soft. And they’re easy to identify and offend. They’ll be the ones flipping out at Whataburger because they got 3 packets of ketchup instead of 5.

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