Epictetus to his disciples

Paulo Coelho

Two things can happen when we meet someone: either we become friends, or we try to convince the other person to accept our convictions. The same happens when the ember meets another piece of coal: either it shares its fire with it, or it is suffocated by its size and ends up extinguished.
As we are generally insecure at a first contact, we try indifference, arrogance or excessive humility. The result is that we stop being who we are and things start heading towards a strange world that does not belong to us.

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  1. Cuando dos personas se conocen y se unen en una relación de pareja, esta condición tan particular se da entre la relación. En este caso, cuando se está en el noviazgo, sucede que el novio o la novia en un determinado momento quiere imponer su realidad debido a que ya están llegando el punto en que uno de los dos quiere pasar el resto de su vida al lado de la otra pareja. Es entonces en ese momento que él o ella trata de convencer a la otra pareja de que actúe o haga las cosas de la forma que él o ella quiere que sean. En ese momento cuando ese compañero o compañera entiende que lo que le está pidiendo es todo lo contrario a lo que es como persona, ocurre que la relación se ve en peligro porque ya una de las partes se siente aprisionada, siente que debe dejar a tras su naturaleza para ser la naturaleza del otro, que debe dejar a tras sus sueños para seguir lo que el otro sueña que sean, y si no se da el consensuo de los sueños a perseguir, la relación termina. Pero no es todo así­, también puede ocurrir lo contrario para beneficio del que es más imponente. Aquí­ la pareja resegada se siente tan compenetrada que renuncia a su naturaleza y se convierte en lo que le plantea el novio o novia y deja de ser quien era, deja de vivir deja de ser, entonces vive ahora en ese mundo totalmente desconocido que le exige el o la otra persona.

  2. munrocea says:

    gosh yes – perhaps the one thing that daily cause utter despair .. if allowed to manifest along the wrong path…

    but then it can be difficult when in that situation of repose and needing to grow… when facing another person who similarly is vulnerable to being at odds with life.

    to pacify, i always accept and far too frequently become like the teacher in order to guide both souls out of the situation.. however, i am tired of this..

    i long to just walk on…
    but im learning to ask myself what it might be that has brought this person to me or i to them – ie: what is a mutually positive path.
    because frankly, im not a saint – i cant get on with everyone…
    and as much as i should wish to try – i have my moods and am happy with where i have reached so far..
    so please, no men on white horses anymore ;o)

  3. Ca says:

    Querido Mestre,

    Seria bem melhor se as pessoas ao se conhecerem ao invés de arrogí¢ncia, humildade extrema ou indiferení§a pudessem trocar rapidamente sinceras conversas de suas experiencias com sinceridade e amor.
    Existe algo alem do que eu possa entender ou explicar que faz com que sintamos grande sintonia com certas pessoas rapidamente num primeiro encontro, como também pode acontecer o inverso por razíµes que eu desconheí§o.
    Acredito que ao conhecermos alguem, ní£o devemos nos basear em aspectos fisicos ou em outros pre-julgamentos que nossa sociedade imprega, mas a sim a voz de nosso coraí§í£o e a energia que aquela pessoa nos transmite…estarmos abertos a sentirmos além do que a pessoa está mostrando em seus atos, mas sim o que o fundo de seus olhos transmite…

    Meu amor, meu respeito e minha gratidí£o… e minha saudade..


  4. kealan says:

    all i want to do from not on is to become friends with people, without the feeling of conviction!

  5. The quotation comes from Book III, chapter 16 of the ‘Diatribes’ of Epictetus.
    The problem is the following:
    “Are you able to tune up a piano, a violin, your prohairesis? If it is not so, you will be forced to play the music, to follow the judgements, of other people (1-6).
    This is why “The power of people lies in the strength of their judgements: there are laymen with an antidihairesis of steel and lots of so-called philosophers with a dihairesis of wax (7-10).
    Best wishes to all
    Franco Scalenghe

  6. Irina Black says:

    Vulpes pilum mutat,not mores.

  7. THELMA says:

    When I first meet someone I am quite open… I open my whole being .. I let myself open to .. reach the other ‘island’! To build a bridge or find a boat.. I am an enthusiastic person. This has made me very vulnerable. I usually can ‘feel’ how other souls feel and I cannot be ‘indifferent’…. So I prefer the solitude of my … home and my music and … living life ..through the window. It is less painful, although destiny always plays … its games!!! :] Remember the .. Sleeping beauty?

    1. THELMA says:

      Dearest Paul, thank you…

  8. I believe that when two people meet, the thing that sets off their behavior is, more than other things, the chemistry between the two, for either sex combinations. The energy that has generated and taken hold between the two, or has clashed, depending on where individually they are in the energy spectrum and their thoughts.

    The same two people can either clash, or get along wonderfully, under different circumstances, and it all depends on their own individual thoughts, emotions, which ultimately determines their reaction with the other.

  9. poate ca cei care nu ne cunosc,cred ca intre noi se afla numai ura,deoarece suntem intotdeauna departe unul de celalalt,pentru ca in mod sigur unul iubeste ma mult,iar altul mai putin..cei care ne cunosc,sunt convinsi ca iubirea dintre noi doi este foarte puternica…dar,numai noi doi stim adevarul..ne iubim foarte mult,si ne uram sufletul nostru atunci cand gresim..atunci cand cineva dintre noi raneste,in suflet apare sentimentul urii ca am fost prea agrsivi…dar,atunci cand ajungem sa observam persoana draga care incearca sa ne ajute,ne inaltam deasupra urii si a tristetii.atunci cand privim in ochii celor care doresc sa impartaseasca tainele iubirii cu noi,..suntem din nou fericiti..in iubire exista numai fericire si bucurie…dar pentru a ajunge la acest dar trebuie sa trecem printr-un ocean al lacrimilor si al nefericirilor…acest ocean inconjoara o insula ..pe aceea insula se afla unicul loc din acest univers care ascunde iubirea ingerilor si a tuturor fapturilor…cu fiecare noua poveste de dragoste,cu fiecare atingere si mangaiere,insula se inalta ,se mareste cu cativa metri..dar,cu fiecare lacrima,cu fiecare despartire,oceanul invadeaza o mica parte a insulei rapindu-i teritoriile atat de pretioase… iubire.adrian

  10. so sadly true…

    here something I wrote on staying truth to yourself…

    Rita the Artist

    Rita has four piercings, one in her nose, one in her tongue, one in her left eyebrow and one on her belly button. She also has several tattoos, in both arms, both ankles, her lower back, her left wrist, her neck and others places that she prefers to keep to herself. Her hair is a mix of colors, where purple is the most notorious. People don’t trust her; she looks different, so different! So they avoid her completely. They don’t want to be-friend her. Her appearance is scary, out of context of what is expected of girl from a good family…
    She is a lonely soul, living on her own, totally dedicated to her art and her love for the whole Universe. She does not feel resentment because they reject her. She understands. Of course she would have preferred for things to be different, to be surrounded by friends who love her for “who she is” and not for “who she should be”. But that is not the case; she made her choice and can’t blame anyone for it. There are no regrets, only content, she is who she is and that is it! She knows that the day humankind begins embracing the differences, respecting them and loving them, is close, so close, it is only a matter of time. The Angels told her that…

    with Love

    1. Savita Vega says:

      Dear Gabi,
      Not long ago I was in a gallery/artists’ studio, talking with the manager of the establishment. Somehow the topic came up about the youths who frequent that area of town and how, often, they are a big presence at the openings and other events hosted by the gallery. The manager, an older man, who was dressed rather conservatively himself, said, “I like these people a lot. They come in here with piercings and tattoos all over their bodies, all dressed in leather, but the thing about them is that they aren’t hiding anything. It’s all out in the open. It’s the other ones that you have to look out for – the ones who look normal. You never can guess what they’re up to.”

      So, Rita, not everyone will react negatively or defensively, not everyone will judge you harshly based on your outward appearance. And you might even be surprised to discover who is on your side – sometimes the people you least expect.

      Best wishes and much love,

    2. Dear Savita,
      I love the manager observation and complete agree with it. Rita is just a small sample. We should always look beyond first impressions, as we never know which treasures can be hidden under the rusty cover.

      When I wrote about Rita, I did it thinking on a young woman that is not ready to compromise who she so as to be able to fit in society, and how she is alienated because of that.
      I related her with Paulo’s story, as Rita does not stop being who she is… she just “is”.



  11. Well, I would have had a discussion with this man! I would have said, true, when when I did not know that was hidden in the Unconscious and that lived without me knowing. Before, when I met, it was I want to be her friend, loved, accepted and recognized by her … or the contrary. Well, I had an intention before, like an obligation, something that I was not aware of. And yes, Insecurity was so much present that for me, I did not act with arrogance, or humility or indifference … I just would disappear slowly but surely physically. Because I hated proximity before, because I was scared of intimity, lost in the notions of the word “love”. So, yes, before, I would have agreed with this man.

    Today, not sure. When I met someone today, I say “Well, seems like God wanted me to met this person”. I listen now more than I talk, and I observe like I always did, but not the other one, like I used to, me now. What is there for me when I listen, when I am close, what does that encounter mean for me on my path! And I am today, and used to be most of the time in the past, authentic and direct, but today with more tenderness for myself and the other. Sometimes, yes, a desire of being a friend mounts, but I come back to the present moment and tell myself that if it is due to happen, something will flow by itself. And when I hear something that does not ring for me, I just express it and tell from where do I start to say this and that, and express my opinion, living the liberty for the other to take or not, and staying opened minded for me too because maybe that encounter what there for me to hear another position, for I need to change position.

    What is there for me is that presently on my path inner satisfaction is there with myself and the few friends that I have, and all the encounters that my professional work give me. I am fulfill … and met interesting people, like you all on this blog, and through books, and with workers through a work for a time limit. All stay in my sensible memories. And when a confrontation comes with friends or person, a confrontation of minds, a receiver that defends himself, or me that defend myself, I need them time to be alone and consider. If I need to amend my actions, I will, not because the other is a friend or not, but because I need to have peace and give peace. A Warrior knows the importance of what stays in the action in terms of “attachments”.

    So, if I met one of you one day, I will be happy for the time that was meant to be to be there, all there, true to myself and sensible to me and you. I will then go back and return to my God and try to see what that meeting was intended for me. If an inspiration to follow-up comes, I will act upon. I live on a day-to-day basis. I have no choice. Yes, I have a choice but I choose so. If I do not, then I will come back to that quotation.

  12. Melissa says:

    So true, as we are always afraid of a lot of things, like, what people think about us, or if we can stay in a certain group. What we really are is shown only to few people like family and friends.

    I really hope sometime that I can be myself at almost all times and not act too shy :p

    1. Savita Vega says:

      I like this thought, Melissa: to have the courage and ability “to be oneself at all times” and with all people. Funny though – I think, of all people, my family knows the least of me; strangers know the most. Friends are probably somewhere in between.

  13. Heart says:

    ‘A friend loves at all times’ (Proverbs 17.17)

    It is a great experience to meet humans from all the different cultures in the world, even if it sometimes means to loose one self for a little bit. For instance my Vietnamese little brother thought me some interesting lessons on child rearing, very different from my own. He explained why he didn’t allow his daughter chocolate, because she might enjoy it in the moment, but she definitely wouldn’t like when her teeth got rotten. So, he let a chocolate bar lay in front of the little 3 year old girl, on the coffee table, for a long while, and she was in obvious pain for not getting it. Harsh parenting, but she probably has good teeth. He also told his wife that Norwegians drink milk because it helps against the cold, and forced her to drink milk too, even though she hated it. We all have so many things we believe in, and try to do the right thing, even when we are wrong. If it is with good intention, if we love the new person we meet, it should be easy to get acceptance for who we are. It’s always give and take both ways.

  14. Alexandra says:

    Is my case. How did u know? I dont know who am I now, for I only follow friends desires.

  15. Savita Vega says:

    And why is this? It is so true! I’ve noticed this too in regards to romantic relationships. With our friends we tend to conduct ourselves in a very different manner than with our partners. We don’t necessarily expect our friends to always accept our convictions, we don’t expect them to conform to our ideas of what a person should be or believe or think. We just let them be who they are – we agree to disagree on occasion. And that is great!

    But with romantic partners something very different tends to occur. We quickly develop a whole set of expectations, and when that person fails to meet one of these expectations, we try to convince them to be different. We want them to believe as we believe, think what we think – we want them to be like us!

    When we notice some “fault” in one of our friends – and, of course, everyone has their fault, including us – we tend to forgive or ignore it and just go on. We laugh and say, “Oh, that’s just Jane!” That’s just the way she is, and we accept it. But this sort of tolerance and compassion often tends to be missing from romantic relationships. When we notice some “fault” in our partner, we say, “Look! This has to change – immediately!” We feel somehow compelled to convince them to see things our way.

    Of course I am speaking in generalities here. Not every romantic relationship is as this. Some couples do seem to truly respect one another as individual human beings, allowing room for differences. But, on the whole, I think we would be a whole lot better off if we treated our romantic partners as we treat our friends – allowing them to just be who they are, believe what they believe and think what they think – not feeling the need to “convince” them of anything.

    1. Liked to read you Savita. For me today, be it a romantic (intimate) relationship with a partner or a friend, I exist! If something happens with a friend, I express, but not with the intention of making her change, or change the course of things, but just to show myself as I am, sensible to some things at that moment in life, the sense for me of the relation, etc … For me today being with my man is because I want a little bit more than with just a friend, be it pleasure, tenderness, a helping hand, someonoe who by existing will help me go further in my self evolution … But as with a friend, I will not begin to become a “personage” to be loved, accepted or recognized, and I will not accept insensibility, non respect, etc … I can accept for the time being a resistance, a defensive attitude, knowing that it hides something greater, but at one time, if the relation is important, if I am important for the other one, if I am important for myself, something will move … or I will move on. Jojo

  16. Mari Ann says:

    I hope that there is fire to be shared. If not, I will recognize it very soon. I have a lot of strength, and I will be able to make the right decision before I end up extinguished. In order to find out about theses things, direct communication is necessary.

  17. Cristina says:

    Absolutely right.
    The most difficult thing, especially nowadays, is to keep a balanced attitude toward everydays’ happenings.

  18. H says:

    Do you think indifference exhibited by someone during a first meeting is a manifestation of insecurity? I always tend to associate it with general apathy.

  19. Heart says:

    Annie. It’s horrible being forced to do anything, especially eating or drinking something you don’t like. I am so much against it. My brother’s belief about the milk was all a tale in his head. He honestly wanted to protect his wife from the cold weather. Well-meaning cruelty! We just need to keep communicating, to help each other find better ways in these everyday encounters. Great your doctor helped convince your parents that you were right, in spite of your age and sex!