Would You Rather Be: Wise or Strong or Stoic || Stoicism Explained

Updated: Aug 30, 2020

(If this article is too long, read in Tidbits.)

Do you admire the strength with which some people make it through adversities and not show a sign of breaking down? How some people can work hard and accept defeat right on their face? How somebody’s life can be falling apart and they still manage to keep going on, like it is the way life is supposed to be? That quality we admire, right there is called Stoicism, the behavioral attribute we are talking about today. Stoicism: Endurance of pain without showing emotions (rather modern-age stoicism). If you practice Stoicism, you are "Stoic".

This topic has been suggested by Shubham Jhunjhunwala who says," Stoicism has been there in everyone's mouths. Just a different word: 'Be a man', everyone preaches, without knowing they are preaching stoicism. You get out in the real world. Work Hard. If hardships come you face it confidently. If something hurts you, you swallow the pain and keep going on without seeking empathy from anyone. That's when you reach your ultimate goal."

Niyati as a child was highly emotional & expressive. She could cry rivers as easily as she could laugh. Often she felt embarrassed because of her fragility. By the end of her teenage, Niyati had identified an ideal self she wanted to be: "Niyati the Stoic". Just as Shubham defined it. Ready to face challenges, capable of handling losses, an embodiment of composure and calmness in difficult times, never yielding to circumstances, a statue of emotional strength: A mountain. These make perfect ingredients for a sound and mature person. Breaking down at losing a verbal battle or at being betrayed? Absolutely no! Why tell the world what’s on the inside?

But (there’s always a but) all the questions I asked, in the beginning, wasn’t for nothing. I presented stoicism to you as suppression of pain and expression of solidarity, or ‘emotionlessness’ and you believed it (If you haven’t already read about Stoicism before). Sadly, this is the definition most of us know from the current time, a highly reduced and altered meaning of the term. Why altered? When you Google/Bing the meaning of "stoicism" there are two definitions that you get: 1. Of the modern era. The one we already discussed. 2. of old Greek school stuff from where it originated (we're about to discuss). Though the meanings appear to be different, today’s meaning comes from yesterday’s. Very much like how Democracy has been reduced to “equal right to vote” (in essence, so peace please). Who cares though? Let’s check on our Niyati. Where has she reached?

Niyati, as fate took her, has turned Stoic after a long span of 12 years. But now, she realizes her stoicism did not come from repressing her emotions, it came from:

1. Acknowledging the unpredictability of events (Providential aspects)

2. Logical judgment to bear on problems (Rational aspect)

(Rational-Providential model guides one to the ethics of leading one’s life according to Stoicism)

3. Intellectuality to guide her actions (Practical wisdom)

4. Applying her efforts for social harmony and wellness (Justice)

5. Immunity from temptations and desires (Temperance)

6. Strength to pursue what was right according to wisdom harnessed (Courage)

(Practical wisdom, Justice, Temperance, and Courage are the four cardinal virtues to be imbibed in order to be Stoic)

Moral of the story: You don’t just stack it up and be stoic. You gotta face it, bear it, and resolve it within yourself. That is what makes you stoic. Find some "Stoics" from your own life. You’ll see they are wiser than they are dejected on the face of problems. Don’t be surprised by their “problems are okay” attitude. As you would have figured out, stoicism is not the expression of solidarity but the beholding of the ocean of rationality within. And, ain’t that approach solid?

Whoa! Just like that, you have understood the basics of Ancient Stoicism, which is 2300 years old. Will you believe if I tell you that if you followed these principles, you could live a “life worth living (Eudemonia)”? Not sure? The Greek philosophy claims you can. “A life worth living” and “happiness” in general aren’t the same things. Doing shit loads of work at your office will leave you frustrated, let alone happy. Meanwhile, your knowledge or practical wisdom tells you that pile of work will help you grow, you’d do all that work willingly to reach your goal. Keeping the right temperance you can resist distractions or quitting. What if it doesn’t contribute to your growth? Your wisdom will tell you to quit the job; courage will prepare you for the uncertainty ahead; your temperance will keep you from hitting a bar and getting wasted if you are to drive yourself home.

Also, adversities will NOT make you stoic, your approach will. You going facing a rejection will NOT make you wise. You could get drunk and throw eggs at the window of the person who rejected you, or you could accept the rejection as part of life. Even better, you can take steps for your growth.

Stoics are not “Know-It-All” people. All 'Stoics' aren’t the same either. However, they all have one thing in common: they don’t spend much time crying over Fate, which is uncontrollable anyway, and they Act in real-time which is under one’s control.

Today’s stoicism deals with appearances, “emotionlessness”. Don’t be fooled. It’s still the same stoicism at heart. As wisdom would have it and Seneca said it, in Tranquility of Mind, “Bring your mind to bear upon your problems”. Stoicism lets you find better reasons for endurance and better meaning to perseverance.

Niyati has it all figured out for you. I mean Niyati: your fate. It’s time for you to figure out your actions and approach to life. That will lead you to Stoicism and Eudemonia (if you remember the meaning).