“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil.”
– Marcus Aurelius
This is one of the most profound passages in all of the Emperors Meditations.
Not only because it is as true today as it as it ever was, but also because of the fact that if the most powerful man on earth at the time had to deal with difficult people, then certainly so must we. Difficult people is a fact of life – especially for a man or woman in the arena. By this I mean if you want to accomplish anything worthwhile, you’re going to learn how to put up with people who act up.
Not only will you need to learn how to put up with them, but you must learn how to navigate
them like a battle-worn captain of the seas.
My point here is two-fold: first and foremost you must recognize that people haven’t changed since Marcus Aurelius was emperor. People are still ungrateful, arrogant and dishonest – they will go behind your back in a second if it serves them well. This might strike you as cynical, but that is reality and it’s better to confront it head on, than to wish it was different.
The second point here is that the way to deal with these difficult people haven’t changed either – the way to deal with them is to accept that they are the way they are because they don’t know any better. They don’t the difference between good and evil, and the best thing we can do is to brace ourselves to deal with these people. Face them head on, and know that not everyone we are going to meet will be all sunshine and butterflies.
When we steel ourselves for encounters with difficult people in this way, we can handle them better, and we can look upon them with compassion, and wish them well, because we know that deep down, they don’t know why they are acting this way. We might not be able to help them get better, but at least we can deal with them in a warm and gentle manner – this way we show them a better way, as well as keep our own hands clean of their lies and arrogance.