Wisdom, Temperance, Courage, and Justice: The Four Stoic Virtues
The Four Virtues of Stoicism
After a long time of pause, I am finally back, re-learning the one philosophy that helps me get through one of the hardest times in my life: Stoicism. This time, I’m reading ‘How to Think Like a Roman Emperor’ by psychotherapist Donald J. Robertson. I was once again reminded of the four virtues of stoicism. The virtues of living honorably as a human being and the moral code and guidance for those who wish to follow the path of a Stoic.
One is wisdom.
Wisdom means knowing what is good and what is bad. Understanding that there are things beyond our control. Shit that happens from traffic jam, being fired, losing my stuff can’t be controlled. But, my reaction to the calamity is within my control. The virtue of wisdom allows me to make logical decisions and act according to sound judgments based on my knowledge and previous experience. Most of my suffering comes from the beliefs forming from my past experience. With wisdom, I challenge those beliefs and can move forwards with a peaceful mind.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.” — Victor Frankl.
Two is temperance.
Temperance means feeling enough with what’s essential. It is self-control and discipline. With temperance, I am guarding myself against the extremes. I don’t rely on happiness from simple pleasure or live to seek continuous pleasure because even happiness is fleeting. I don’t get carried away by pain either because pain is a necessary and unavoidable part of human life.
“It is not poverty at all. It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.”-Letters from A Stoic.
Three is courage.
Courage means persisting and resisting. There’s no futile attempt in life. My current job exposes me to the unfairness and injustice of the world, and from time to time, it can be exhausting. But, I am bound to my duty to create, craft, and deliver the message of humanity through digital media. And even if I don’t see the result instantly, I will persist with my effort to communicate the message and resist the desire to give up on hope.
“Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.” — Seneca.
Four is justice.
Justice means understanding that we are not born for ourselves. Therefore, we have to choose kindness and justice in any situation and shall do no harm to others in our words or acts.
“There is but one thing of real value — to cultivate truth and justice, and to live without anger in the midst of lying and unjust men.”-Marcus Aurelius.
One who studied Stoicism must understand that we can’t control the world around us, we can only control how we respond. And, we must always respond with the four virtues of Stoicism:
Wisdom to know that I do not and can not control the events outside me. I can only control how I respond to them.
Temperance to know that everything should be done in moderation because both pleasure and pain are fleeting.
Courage to know that if thing threatens to cause me pain: the thing itself was no misfortune at all; to endure it and prevail is great good fortune.
Justice to know that every day I will choose to honor equality, to want to do good, and to not want to harm human beings.