“You will do the greatest services to the state, if you shall raise not the roofs of the houses, but the souls of the citizens: for it is better that great souls should live in small houses than for mean slaves to lurk in great houses.” – Epictetus
It is a worthy goal in life to want to make people’s lives better. The best way to help the most people is to do our best to reduce unnecessary suffering. Unnecessary suffering – in the world the majority of us reading this inhabit – is most often the result of trying to control things that are outside of our ability to control. So the best way to help the most people live better lives is to show them that they need to focus on the things they can actually control.
It turns out that while this is simple, it is also surprisingly difficult. No one wants to hear someone tell them that they are trying to control things that they will never be able to control. No one wants to hear they are focusing on the wrong side of a situation and that they need to focus on controlling themselves instead.
People need to be shown, through example how to make themselves better. But that takes time and many people will never see the example we set for them. Also, our example will often times fall short. Very short.
It is then, a life long task, to always be trying to set a better example. To always be focusing more on the things we can control and less on the things we can not. People’s responses to our actions fall into the latter category. We are wise to remember this.
It is difficult. But it is the best service we have to offer.
virtus fortis vocat