Marcus Aurelius: On Humility and Duty

We ought to do good to others as simply as a horse runs, or a bee makes honey, or a vine bears grapes season after season without thinking of the grapes it has borne.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book Five

In this day and age it is far too easy to become addicted to our ego. Through the internet and social media, we long for instant gratification and praise. Consequently, we become consumed by the notifications, the ‘likes’, and the comments as we continually search for validation. We are inclined to boast our feats, our good deeds and accomplishments to others. However, through this, we lose perspective of the original intentions of our actions.

The Stoics looked to nature and assessed how the world natural operates to understand how humans should act. It follows from this that humans are rational and social animals. As human beings, we flourish through our collective efforts in society not in isolation. In fact, the degree in which we are able to cooperate and collaborate to build complex and sophisticated civilizations is uniquely human. This trait sets us apart from other species.

In this quote Marcus Aurelius recommends that we perform good actions not for the sake of praise or adoration, but for there own sake. Selflessly working towards improving the lives of others is what being a human living in a society requires of us. It is in our nature, just as it is in the nature of a bee to make honey or a vine to produce grapes. Therefore, we must not demand recognition or compensation for our good deeds or seek external validation.

In his book The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw profiles the lives of World War II Veterans who sacrificed their lives in pursuit of freedom. These soldiers were not motivated by fame or acclaim, but rather fought because it was ‘the right thing to do’. They performed their duty to their country and to their fellow citizens with honour and humility, not with pride.   

Humility is not a sign of weakness but rather a virtue. It demands that an individual be honest about their own abilities. Furthermore, it requires one to be content with their own self-worth and refrain from comparing themselves to others.   

Follow Marcus Aurelius’ advice and do what is expected from you, not because you will profit form it, but rather because it is the right thing to do.

13 thoughts on “Marcus Aurelius: On Humility and Duty

  1. I think if any “school of thought” is making any kind of comeback, it would be the Sophist.

    From where I sit, it would seem as if the age of enlightenment is being put to death in the very same halls of Academia that gave rise to its birth, never mind the great philosophies.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing this, such a powerful message. I agree, we need to see how connected we all are and how important it is to work together.


  3. Every person is unique and cannot be compared to anyone else. The soul connects our lives to the others around us.
    We are intertwined with the outside world
    entangled with others we live with we cannot merge with others. We cannot see inside other people, never fully understand the other person deep inside. From our parents, the connection in the bud, in the cry of blood to be born into the world. Who we really are, we can never completely fathom for ourselves, never know for ourselves. While others in the world around us have some influence on us, determination in coming and going comes from the law of the soul; until today, to the incarnation which is still in progress. The image of the physical appearance of our parents (we differ little in genes from other living beings) in the generational transmission, the values ​​of our culture and the unique intricacies of our closest friends must be able to be questioned for their contents. No one but ourselves has the work to do to leave behind who we are and who we are meant to become. We are responsible for the tracks we leave.

    Our “I” is time, in our short lifetime. Every human being has the task of making himself (not for others) comprehensible.
    You can imagine a self. The “I” develops in the drama of the soul. The soul that we are not the author ourselves, in which soul can only play a supporting role. We are dependent on the outside world of the environment, we are shaped in development by life itself. We are nature in nature. Death is the only fact, death is the goal of all people. For order and balance in a constantly changing world and inner world, man must try this task every day for the better.
    Man in his subjectivity in every moment.
    No one is a you in the other, the soul turns the paradox into an image with the task of not seeing the other but itself in the countertransference.
    Every human being is a separate being, separated from the others by their intimacy (by the border of the skin). The collective experiences are inscribed in the human history of the soul. The root is the soul that gives each person their own character.
    Art is a child of the soul, it does not want to content itself with plucking the fruits from the tree of knowledge, the artist sees himself, for all simple people, as the creator of the tree of life, from which he gives us its fruits of the temptation wants us to participate.
    The universe cannot think, but on earth it created us from stardust.

    Final Thoughts
    I am my own worst enemy, so I have no news, no mission to other people to report for the better of an inner-fulfilled life.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I asked you this question recently in your contact form but shall ask it again, is altruism possible in this day and age. For one to be truly altruistic one needs to gain no benefit correct? Have you written about altruism on your blog please? Thanks ahead v

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you, and apologies for not getting back sooner.

        I haven’t done much writing\reading on the topic, but I agree it would be an action that is selfless, and not motivated by one’s ego intended to benefit another group\individual.

        I am aware of this group called Effective Altruism, it may be of interest to you:

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on A Life of Virtue: Philosophy as a Way of Life and commented:

    Hello Everyone,

    I’ve been taking some time off from writing, but hope to be back with some original content soon.

    In the meantime, here is a reblog on an article conveying the wisdom of the great Stoic Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

    We could always a bit of Stoic wisdom in times like these.



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