Epictetus on Who is really the slave


If you want to improve, reject such reasoning as these: “If I neglect my affairs, I’ll have no income; if I don’t correct my servant, he will be bad.” For it is better to die with hunger, exempt from grief and fear, than to live in affluence with perturbation; and it is better your servant should be bad, than you unhappy.

Begin therefore from little things. Is a little oil split? A little wine stolen? Say to yourself, “This is the price paid for apathy, for tranquility, and nothing is to be had for nothing.” When you call your servant, your friend, your daughter or spouse it is possible that he may not come; or, if he does, he may not do what you want because you are imposing your will on theirs. Are they your slave?

Instead, think that you should not worrying about how others act and react to you, because then without realizing it you are giving them power over you — to cause you disturbance, to make you worry about what they will do, when they will do it and then how. This is no way to be content much less to live the life of a free man.

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