We can strive to perfect our character and fill our lives with generosity, humanity and warmth. But somewhere, anger, sadness, irrationality and other human qualities will sneak in.
The goal is unattainable. Still, we must reach for it.
This morning in the Meditations, I read that you should “fight to be the person philosophy tried to make you.”
Most of us spend our lives trapped in the gap between Point A, who we are and Point B, who we want to become. Sometimes we know one of the points. Sometimes, we know neither. Marcus knew Point B. A paragraph later, he says “take Antoninus as your model, always.” Antoninus was his adopted father.
He had a model. Often, we don’t.
So what can we do? First, find someone to look up to. Not a worthless celebrity, or someone who adds no value to the world, but a truly good human being. Someone whose life is a story of strength, acceptance and endurance.
Second, some advice from Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things. When asked what advice she would give to people in her twenties, she said this:
“To be about ten times more magnaminous than you believe yourself capable of being. Your life will be a hundred times better for it … You will learn a lot about yourself if you stretch in the direction of goodness, of bigness, of kindness, of forgiveness, of emotional bravery. Be a warrior for love.”
It’s not easy though. Because to do it, you must expect more of yourself, you must believe that you are better than you think yourself capable of becoming.
In Lord Chesterfield’s Letters, Chesterfield counsels that “those who endeavour to excel all, are at least sure of excelling a great many.”
Being a good person is not a competition with others. It is a competition with yourself. The person you are trying to defeat is looking at you in the mirror.
Fight hard. You are seeking to better the future version of yourself, and he really doesn’t want you to win.