“Bestow pardon for many things; seek pardon for none.” — Seneca
I say sorry, a lot. It’s something I work on daily. It’s a habit born of years of abuse, a poor attempt at best to keep from getting in more trouble than I already did just for existing. I have apologized for existing for more years than I can count.
In my studies and practice of Stoicism, one of the things I constantly work on is being positive. Years ago, being positive, to me, meant I was positive I wouldn’t live past 25. Being positive that life just sucked and would never get any better. These days, being positive means what it should. It means doing my level best not to allow little things to annoy me, appreciating the things that are right in front of me, taking moments throughout the day for myself, meditating, re-learning to breathe. It also means learning to stop apologizing for everything, especially things that I have no control over.
When Seneca said the quote referenced above, he was referring to those in power needing to be careful of their power. Marcus Aurelius, great Roman Emperor and fellow Stoic, felt this way as well. He felt that people should hold themselves to the highest standards, yet, allow their fellow man their failings. This resonates with me on a deep level. I have always held myself to a much higher standard than anyone else, however, what I’m learning is that does not mean that I have to apologize when I inevitably make a mistake. Making mistakes is part of being human, how you handle them denotes the type of person you are. If you are constantly expecting others to forgive you for your shortcomings, failures, or just all out jackass moves, then you’ll find yourself quite miserable. Trust me, I know.
The part I have not had an issue with, personally, is forgiving others, much. I have always been the one to give out forgiveness like Christmas presents, unfortunately my problem in that area is I was usually too quick in doing so. People deserve forgiveness, but they don’t always deserve you to remain in their life once they’ve wronged you. This is the part that Stoicism has helped me with the most. I forgive, but if that person or situation is a detriment to my mental health and well-being, then with forgiveness also comes release. Release of that person or situation from my life. “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”
What I will continue to work on each day is not seeking forgiveness for every little thing that happens in life. I will make the changes that I need to in order to fix something that is wrong, if it is within my control to do so. And I will continue to hold myself to the highest standard, because I am worth it, and so are you.
Or, as Ryan Holiday noted in a recent Daily Stoic email, “Or conversely, you could go around begging for pardon for your many mistakes and demanding perfection from other people…but that doesn’t sound like a recipe for happiness or success.”
No, it really doesn’t.