Letters from a Stoic 19 – Summary and Key Takeaways

                In letters from a stoic 19, Seneca is convincing Lucilius to retire from public affairs. It seems that Lucilius has reached the peak of his career as a procurator at the time of this writing. The wise old man said that craving for more wealth or higher positions has no end while retirement provides more satisfaction though with less responsibilities. “Why wait until there is nothing left for you to crave? That time will never come… If you retreat to privacy, everything will be on a smaller scale, but you will be satisfied abundantly

                It seems as well from the letter that Lucilius is clinging to his popularity brought about by his line of work and in particular the number of friends. Seneca, however, warned Lucilius that they may not be his true friends.  “None of these men courts you for yourself; they merely court something from you. People used to hunt friends, but now they hunt pelf; if a lonely old man changes his will, the morning-caller transfers himself to another door.” This is somehow true. The only way we know we got some real friends if they stick around when we have nothing.

                The last part of the letter is particularly interesting to me. He said that people who are powerful and wealthy should not think that they are winning friends just because they are giving them favors. In some cases, helping people especially unsolicited ones leaves the person resentful, “in the case of certain men, the more they owe, the more they hate. A trifling debt makes a man your debtor; a large one makes him an enemy”. It took me a while to process this line but it’s true.  Sometimes our ego overshadows gratitude. I could remember instances in my life where random helped me in my lows and I felt like I own them my entire life. I feel small and oblige to please them. Seneca, however, stressed that there is absolutely no problem with an act of kindness. He then leaves this maxim at the end of the letter. “Consider that it is more important who receives a thing, than what it is he receives”. For me, it’s very important to help people especially with they are in the inner circle of close friends but I will definitely limit unsolicited acts of kindness.

*****   Letters from a Stoic Key Takeaways is a collection of short key takeaways from the letters sent by Seneca to Lucilius. Read each letter’s key takeways here .

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