Disaster is Virtue’s Opportunity
I have been reading the outstanding new book by David Fideler, Breakfast with Seneca: A Stoic Guide to the Art of Living. The latest chapter, titled How to Overcome Adversity, is full of solid reminders for those of us who struggle when storm clouds seem to gather:
One of the most inspiring things about Roman Stoicism is how the Stoics believed something good can always come out of an adverse situation. As Seneca wrote, “Disaster is virtue’s opportunity.” Even the worst misfortune allows us to respond in a virtuous way.
No one is in control of the circumstances we are given in life, but the Stoic takes whatever situation is at hand and makes use of it, transforming it into something valuable. “Whatever might happen,” wrote Epictetus, “it’s within my power to derive some benefit from it.”
I have only recently come to grips with how quickly I label circumstances we are all subject to as bad or unfair. Things that happen to us simply are. We have a choice, however, when the unfavorable winds of adversity blow our direction. Instead of simply absorbing hardship, we can turn them to our advantage.
Marcus Aurelius wrote “Then why such turmoil? To live your brief life rightly, isn’t that enough? The raw material you’re missing, the opportunities …! What is any of this but training — training for your logos, in life observed accurately, scientifically. So keep at it, until it’s fully digested. As a strong stomach digests whatever it eats. As a blazing fire takes whatever you throw on it, and makes it light and flame.”
What if, instead of withering under adversity, we chose to see our struggles as fuel for our internal fire? The very things we complain about could be what we desperately need to grow and become a better version of ourselves. What are ways that you turn hardship into happiness?
Fideler, David R. . Breakfast with Seneca: A Stoic Guide to the Art of Living (pp. 101–102). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.
Fideler, David R. . Breakfast with Seneca: A Stoic Guide to the Art of Living (pp. 100–101). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.
Aurelius, Marcus. Meditations (Modern Library) (p. 144). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.