Facing Adversity

But when the time of trial is come, one of you must weep and say, "I wish that I had learned more." More of what? If you did not learn these things in order to show them in practice, why did you learn them? I think that there is someone among you who are sitting here, who is suffering like a woman in labor, and saying, "Oh, that such a difficulty does not present itself to me as that which has come to this man. Oh, that I should waste my life in a corner, when I might be crowned at Olympia. When will anyone announce to me such a contest?" Such ought to be the disposition of all of you. Even among the gladiators of Caesar there are some who complain grievously that they are not brought forward and matched, and they offer up prayers to God and address themselves to their superintendents entreating that they might fight. And will no one among you show himself such? I would willingly take a voyage for this purpose and see what my athlete is doing, how he is studying his subject. "I do not choose such a subject," he says. Why, is it in your power to take what subject you choose? There has been given to you such a body as you have, such parents, such brethren, such a country, such a place in your country. Then you come to me and say, "Change my subject." Have you not abilities which enable you to manage the subject which has been given to you? "It is your business to propose. It is mine to exercise myself well." However, you do not say so, but you say, "Do not propose to me such a topic, but such. Do not urge against me such an objection, but such." There will be a time, perhaps, when tragic actors will suppose that they are masks and buskins and the long cloak. I say, these things, man, are your material and subject. Utter something so we may know whether you are a tragic actor or a buffoon. Both of you have all the rest in common. If any one then should take away the tragic actor's buskins and his mask, and introduce him on the stage as a phantom, is the tragic actor lost, or does he still remain? If he has voice, he still remains.

We have heard this talk about facing adversity before in Discourse 24. We should relish the battle because it tests us. In an example from literature we might take as example Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey, in "Desolation Island", when he is set about by storms in a sail ship in the "high latitudes" of the Southern Hemisphere. The slightest mistake would lead to disaster, but he laughs and is happy every moment for his seamanship is tested to the limit.

Even so, there are people who wish they were not faced with the problems that beset them, and this is natural. But it is impossible to change the challenges that are faced by we humans. For we will always be limited by the laws of physics. We will always be constrained by our senses. We must deal with the rest of humanity. It is how we deal with these factors that makes us a good human being, a good Christian.

Chapter 29:

  1. On Constancy and Courage
  2. Do Philosophers Despise Kings? (2a)
  3. Opinions (2b)
  4. The Stronger and the Weaker (2c)
  5. Anytus and Meletus (2d)
  6. Superior Principles (2e)
  7. Child-Like Minds (2f)
  8. Like an Athlete (2g)
  9. Facing Adversity (2h)
  10. Might for Right (2i)
  11. Objective Truth (2j)
  12. Exhortation to Action (2k)
  13. The Runaway Slave (2l)
  14. Summary - Stoicism and Christianity (2m)
Stoicism and Christianity Index

Visit BibleStudyInfo.com

This is a translation and explanation of the first book of the Discourses of Epictetus. His words are in regular text, comments are in bold.

Biographical Information on Epictetus

Contact Us | Privacy Statement |