Thursday, April 11, 2013

Errors of Stoicism

Stoicism was a philosophy that arose in the early third century BC. Those who aligned themselves with this way of life believed that people should be free of passion. The paragon of moral and intellectual perfection would be one who had completely subjected his emotions to his will. Blaise Pascal was a fascinating man who lived in the mid-1600s. He is remembered primarily for his contributions to physics and mathematics. However, over the latter part of his life he became a devout Christian and directed his efforts to Christian apologetics. One of his areas of focus was to denounce what he termed "errors of stoicism". One of the main issues that Pascal had with Stoicism and other derivative philosophies was that they caused people to act against their very natures. He believed the key error of Stoicism is in thinking that we can do always what we can do sometimes.

I think this point is one that we would do well do consider in many areas of our lives.
  • How often have we beaten ourselves up over periods where we are physically and intellectually unmotivated? Why can't we get up off the couch today? Why can't we come up with any creative ideas?
  • How often have we tried to develop spiritual disciplines of reading the Bible, setting aside a certain period of time each day for prayer and reflection, only to come down hard on ourselves when we have seasons where we are distracted or overly busy and neglect our faith?
  • How often have we had trouble in relationships where we have instances in which we lack in attentiveness or focus? We can so easy get down on ourselves in such times.
  • How often have we felt incredible guilt over a purchase that we made that was not within our budget? It doesn't matter how well we have been keeping our eye on our finances or how well our debt is being paid off. One splurge in a moment of weakness and we kick ourselves again and again.
  • How often have been kept control of our lust and done well guarding our eyes and our thoughts, only to wreck ourselves over a momentary lapse of control?
I think that we need to keep our attention on the fact that maintaining unwavering constancy regarding a certain behavioral pattern is not a part of our human nature. Instead of ruining ourselves with self-hate and intense guilt over the occasional indiscretion, perhaps we should try to ease up on ourselves. Maybe the best solution is to just get back up on that horse that we fell from and continue on our way as best we can.