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What Is A Stoic?

Reading Time: 8 minutes

When you hear or think of the word stoic what comes to mind? Often people have the idea the stoics and stoicism are being completely emotionless or stuffing their emotions down. For a while, I thought it was more of a man holding off with their emotions until a later time that they can process them. To a point, that’s not too far off but so much more, and now see why men are so naturally inclined to being a stoic. 

Yeah, it has to do with emotions but there are more to this philosophical means of living and I have been processing the principles they live by with the philosophy of objectivism. They do butt up against each other in a few places but that could be where one side’s faults rub up against the other side’s strengths.

While other principles complement each other quite nicely. Like the fighting off of fear. Fear is a great enemy and the destroyer of all that you want to accomplish. The stoics and the objectivists both see fear as an obstacle you have to work to drive out of your life.

What is a stoic?

A stoic isn’t an emotionless Vulcan as many folks in society want to believe. There is more to this line of thinking and approaching life they have a set of virtues or core values, that they are seeking to follow. Then there are a set of beliefs they have that center around how to live your life. In how they see it as the best way to have a fulfilling life.

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The 4 Virtues of a Stoic

The stocks have 4 core values they call virtues. The four virtues are Courage, Justice, WIsdom, and Temperance. The last is what most people focus on and they ignore all the rest. Yet without all 4 of these virtues, it is actually hard to hold any of the other virtues in place. These virtues are actually interlocked. So without courage, you can’t have justice. You can’t serve justice without wisdom, and wisdom flies out the door if you can’t maintain good temperance. Then each of those 4 virtues supports the other virtues.

Courage

This virtue is more than just running into a burning building to rescue a family. It is about making sure that fear is driven out of a person’s life. Fear is the greatest obstacle you will face. It raises its ugly head at every turn of your journey. As soon as you beat the fear of one task another fear raises up. If you don’t have courage as a virtue you are going to be more likely willing to call it quits right when you are about to make a big breakthrough. 

You cannot, however, just run with courage and not incorporate the other 3 virtues. If you are trying to do courageous stuff and you don’t have temperance in your life you gonna be seen as a fool. You aren’t being brave, you are just a nut job. If you don’t have wisdom with that you are just someone who is trying to appear brave. WIthout the other virtues in place, courage is just a vice you use to buffer your world.

Justice

You hear this, what comes to mind? More than likely it is doing what is right. Marcus Aurelius states that justice is the “Source of all other virtues” and I can see where that is the case. Without a sense of justice, you won’t have a reason to be brave. Justice is what gives you the need to seek out wisdom. You can’t dispense justice without temperance. 

A good example of people using justice without considering the other virtues is the Social Justice people. The Cancel culture that is wrapped up in Social Justice shows just what happens when you don’t use temperance nor wisdom to try to get justice. Many would even say that their tactics are also more cowardly because they don’t want to even hear the other side of an argument and would rather just shut people down and silence them from voicing an opposing view.

Wisdom

Wisdom seems easy enough to hold as a virtue. However, that wisdom takes a turn when you see that wisdom is looking at both sides of the argument. How many times do you hear something and go yep that’s right, then move along on your merry way? I am guilty of it daily. It is called confirmation bias.  We all have it in us to do the lazy hard and sometimes uncomfortable work of looking at both sides of the coin. 

Wisdom isn’t just what a person knows but it also is tied to moral choices and coming to fully understand the full what and why’s of a moral decision. You have to have the wisdom to be able to make a good and just decision. You need the wisdom of Solomon and not allow your emotions to get the better of what is right. That is where most of us falter. We don’t do the just thing because of how we are afraid to be viewed. Now you see why wisdom and courage are needed together to have justice. You can be a smart person but wisdom is having the ability to state what is right and what is wrong.

Temperance

This is also called self-control. This is where you don’t let emotions control your life. You don’t let emotions factor into the virtue of justice. When you think with emotions you get a knee jerk reaction and that doesn’t serve anybody involved. If you allow people to get you wrapped up in the drama of whatever they perceive as to be an injustice you are likely to make a very unwise decision.

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Stoics Core Beliefs

Much like other forms of philosophy Stoics have a set of core beliefs that they try to live their life by. Now this isn’t all the time, but stoics are always trying to be a master of these beliefs. There are several core beliefs but I have included just a few.

Happiness isn’t in things.

This could also link over to minimalism and objectivism. That shiny new pair of Air Jordans isn’t going to bring you happiness. Losing weight isn’t going to make you happy. The reason why is because it is actually impossible for anybody or thing to make you happy because your happiness comes from what you think. 

If you don’t see yourself as attractive and you are not giving yourself love. Then you will still find other things that are wrong with you after you have had that lap band surgery. Then on top of that, you will gain the weight back because you are still punishing yourself for not being happy yet. That feeling comes from within, not from how you look.

The Stoics knew this and they pursued happiness in themselves, and by their accomplishments. You are able to find happiness in the things you do not what those activities bring to you.

Know What You Can Control

When it comes to controlling the stuff around you there is very little control in your hands. You can use the power of your mind to modify your environment but you can’t control other people’s agency. Yeah, you can influence them but you can’t grab a joystick and make them do something that is against their will.

The stoics know that they are only able to control their thoughts, their opinions, their decisions, and their purpose or duty. Going against these will only give you suffering because ultimately the other person will disappoint and the dog will eventually pee on your leg. It is good to know that you can’t control anything other than you.

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Removing Useless emotions

Now I differ a little bit here. I do think that anger is a useless emotion in 99% of our lives. Yet it does have a purpose when you are at war and other very minor times. The rest of the time there really isn’t any reason to get angry because it’s not going to serve you in any way. Getting pissed off and stomping around isn’t going to fix the issue at hand in fact you will only make it worse. So for that, I agree with them but I do think there is a very finite reason to have anger and rage in your life.

The Stoics also have some other useless emotions that we do need to work out of our system. Those are Hope and fear. Now I don’t agree with the hope being a useless emotion but I agree with why they see hope as a useless emotion. Hope usually only springs up when you haven’t adequately prepared yourself. Yet hope does play a good part if you find yourself in a place you didn’t prepare for and yes there are times that you will find yourself in the land of unprepared, and all you can do is hope you get the problem fixed sooner than later.

Now fear is an emotion that if you can drive it out of your life forever you will find that you are unstoppable. Fear is the eviscerator of dreams. Fear is the opposite of love and to be afraid causes you to deny yourself the enjoyment of the struggle.

Self-Reliance

The only person you can control yourself. So you have to have integrity with yourself and know that you can rely on your own wisdom and courage to make it thought like and to make it to the dreams you are striving for. If you have to rely on other people you are hoping that they will come through. Yet as mentioned before you can’t control other people. So you have ti be able to give them grace when they do something stupid in your mind. That is the ability to dispense justice in a good way. Yeah a guy may have been a jerk and you do have the choice to ignore his loudness or you can go over and punch him in the mush. What’s the better solution? You have to rely on yourself to make that good decision without letting emotions get in the way.

Needing of Friends

This is a big problem for men in today’s day and age. We often have only one or two good friends and rarely have a full band of brothers we can turn to for support and help. Many times we forsake our friends when we get married and turn to our wives for the needed support. When sadly she isn’t able to support us the way that we need.

Don’t Worry About Perfection

This is another key point that holds men back. We study and attend conferences and more to gather knowledge. Yet we think we have to get it right first before we can make any progress. And that is the farthest from the truth. It is better to get your project moving and make the corrections as you go. Many times we have paralysis by analysis. We won’t make a move because we aren’t applying the knowledge we have gathered. Stoics say progress before perfection.

What is not a stoic?

a stoic isn't an animated statue
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Stoics are not emotionless beings. In fact, they relish their emotions; they just know that there is a time and a place for different emotions. When you are practicing wisdom you don’t want your wisdom clouded because of feelings. There are times that people will lash out with emotions when a person takes in all the data and courageously states his ruling and it goes against what some people think it should be. The LA riots are a good example of this. Other riots came about for similar situations. A stoic will use all four pillars of stoicism to be the best man.

A stoic can become very passionate about a topic and still have temperance in check. When a man is pursuing his dream you can see his passion in his work. He does the very best because that is what a man does. Men can and often do become sad. Yet we are able to overcome that melancholy attitude and change our thoughts because those are things we are in control of.

Stoics are not toxic masculinity either. I have stated before that it is impossible for man to be toxic. To call a person toxic is a victim-oriented way of thinking this is nothing but emotions and courage on the victim’s part. That is because they are blaming another person for how they feel and that is impossible. Words don’t have that type of power.

The Biggest Problem of Stoicism

I do have an issue with stoicism and that is that stoics often talk about being altruistic. And I don’t think men need to sacrifice themselves for the good of the rest. They can only be true to one person and that is themselves. I see stoicism fitting with my priority list of God, Me, my family, friends, and finally community. WIth altruism you are to give yourself last and if you do that you can’t help others. ALtruism has no place in society. Now if you want to give to a homeless man that is up to you and only if it doesn’t put you behind your bills. While those with an altruistic mindset think that is the better sacrifice which is wrong.

So should men go their own way? Absolutely not, men need their friends and the friends do include their wife. Yes, there are times that women can’t help men but they are also very powerful allies and give a great alternative view of a problem.

So look up and start studying stoics. I would recommend the Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday. His podcast episodes are nice and short and if you want a little interview mixed in he does that on the weekends. Ryan has quite a bit of insight into how the Stoics thought and he does a good job of describing them. 

Like the stoic Marcus Aurelius men seek to understand their emotions.
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About Bryan Goodwin

I like being able to help people find their "why" and achieve the personal freedom they desire. Besides writing for Relaxed Male I also am a life coach. By helping men find the leader that is found in each and every one of us. I do this by encouraging men to get outdoors and find the balance they are missing. Realize that they need to be in contact with the outside as often as they can. It is not only good for them but for their families and relationships.

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