"Only the morally weak feel compelled to defend or explain themselves to others".
"Let the quality of your deeds speak on your behalf. We cannot control the impressions others form about us"
Epictetus in "The Art of Living"
Oops. That one stoke a chord!
All to often do I feel the need or at least desire to explain myself. Of course what Epictetus (Greek philosopher, 55 AD) meant was to explain a certain behaviour or certain words that could be explained in a negative way. Most of what I explain on this weblog falls, I think, not under that category.
But I have a tendency to write long e-mails to explain myself. All to afraid that the other person would not understand or think bad of me. These words of Epictetus, maybe more than any, made me realise that I still have a way to go on the path of spirtual growth. And being accused of moral weakness is not nice of course. (Buddha would certainly have used more compassionate words for this, but Epictetus straightforward, direct wording certainly woke me up).
Just thinking: "you think what you want, that is your interpretation, not my business", is not something I often do. But I do see Epictetus point. If you can do that, that certainly shows strength. It shows you know you are doing the right thing or doing things with the right intension, so you don't have to worry what others think.
Let me explain a recent situation where I did not defend myself but had to control myself not to do that.
We, me and my three Indian colleagues, where underway by car to the city of Nanded where we were going to work. I asked to stop at a fruit stall to buy some fruit. As the deal was that all my daily costs were provided by my local boss, he was kind of buying the fruit. But I wanted to buy what I wanted and selected the fruits I liked. He then added some more and said "we can share".
I replied that I just wanted to buy what I needed myself. He then said "you can have it all'. That sounded like I didn't want to share. The issue was however that I didn't want to buy too much and then have to throw away things, something I hate to do. I guess I left the wrong impression but somehow didn't explain myself. But I have to admit that I did think afterwards: "What must they have thought? That I am some selfish....". But now I think it didn't matter, my deeds throughout the weeks have spoken for themselves I guess.
Anyway, I am gona try out Epictetus wisdom and see how that feels. See if I can not be "morally weak" anymore. Pfff, sometimes spiritual growth is pretty tough :-).
All the best,