Monday, November 19, 2012

Stoicism...


OK…so I’ve been mulling this around for some time…Elder D. Todd Christofferson’s talk from General Conference (Brethren We Have Work To D) was a very powerful one to me.  It echoes many sentiments that I’ve written about here on my blog.  It was thrilling to me to hear his words and feel a small sense of validation.  I can’t tell you how many times as I’ve tried to talk about these very issues, and people have said “If this is so important, why aren’t the brethren talking about it?”…WELL…

One thing in particular that I can’t seem to get out of my head, was this quote:

“Today, however, with women moving ahead in an advanced economy, provider husbands and fathers are now optional, and the character qualities men had needed to play their role—fortitude, stoicism, courage, fidelity—are obsolete and even a little embarrassing.”

Those four attributes that he lists piqued my curiosity: Fortitude, Stoicism, Courage, Fidelity.  What do these words mean? Why do they matter? How do they define men? And ultimately, how do we put them into practice?


I just can’t seem to get those words out of my head, so here goes my interpretation of them.

Fortitude, courage and fidelity were pretty clear to me, and the dictionary provides some very good definitions.

FORTITUDE: “mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation”.  
COURAGE: “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear” (I’d add to this that it isn’t necessarily done ‘without fear’…everyone feels a certain degree of fear, but those who can harness, control or use fear to their advantage have true courage.)
FIDELITY: “strict observance of promises, duties, etc.” In short…if we commit to do something, then we do it.  No matter what!

Stoicism on the other hand was very intriguing to me and I’ll be honest, I wasn’t 100% sure what that meant.  Here is what an average dictionary says about it:

STOICISM: “repression of emotion and indifference to pleasure or pain.”

That word has been percolating in my brain ever since conference.  Knowing that Elder Christofferson is a very intelligent man and that he would have chosen his words very carefully…I can’t help but wonder what message is being sent by his use of this quote and this word in particular?

As I thought about it, I recalled another article where I’d read an interview with Clint Eastwood where he states:

“We live in more of a (wimpy) generation now, where everybody's become used to saying, "Well, how do we handle it psychologically?" In those days (1930’s-50’s), you just punched the bully back and duked it out. Even if the guy was older and could push you around, at least you were respected for fighting back, and you'd be left alone from then on.”

He’s a little blunt in his statement, but I think that he nailed it.  Maybe we over think situations…maybe we are too concerned with offending…maybe, as men, we are concerned TOO MUCH with the ‘touchy feely’ side of things and it is halting our progress.  Maybe what Elder Christofferson is saying is that we need to be more aggressive in our approach to the things of the kingdom?  Less discussion and more DOING…

I know and fully understand that we need to be sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, but I also firmly believe that the Holy Ghost talks to men the best when our hands are busy.  When we are DOING the Lord’s will is when he visits us.

I think that maybe, in today’s world, men spend way too much time trying to get in touch with their emotions.  That process just makes us more miserable.

Does this notion of Stoicism mean that we can’t feel emotions?  Should we ignore the feelings of others? On the contrary.  I believe that it makes our emotions more genuine and we feel them deeper.  Rather than trying to skim the surface of our feelings as we ‘psychoanalyze’ things…we get to work and feel the true emotion even deeper. Get some dirt on our hands and our cares tend to melt away.  Focus on others and our personal ‘hurt feelings’ fade away.  Work hard, side-by-side with your brethren of the priesthood and notice the bonds of brotherhood grow deeper and deeper.

With that said, there are going to be times when we will be frustrated, down, concerned, sad, unhappy, etc…and we will feel some powerful emotions.  It is important to know that these can be shared without appearing to be a wimp.  This is part of being Priesthood Brothers…that we can lift one another.  Often the best thing we can do for each other is to simply say “Yeah…I’ve felt like that.”.  Just knowing that another has struggled and made it through is enough to lift a brother.  We don’t need to analyze those feelings.  We just share them…and we understand.

“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Proverbs 27:17

There may also be times when emotions can get out of control.   Weather due to mental illness’ or due to a learned inability to control them, it’s important to be man enough to admit that you need help.  This too is a part of the stoicism that Elder Christofferson talks about.  The humility to acknowledge that you need some help…and getting it.

Honestly, these are just a few, rambling thoughts about stoicism and what it means.  I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on the topic.

NO FEAR - NO WHINING - NO REGRETS