“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who tells you different is selling something.”
-The Dread Pirate Roberts
The third of the classic Virtues is Fortitude. It’s also the one that seems to be the hardest to talk about. In fact I remember quoting Cicero on Fortitude and actually upsetting someone. The quote was, “All pain is either severe or slight, if slight, it is easily endured; if severe, it will without doubt be brief.” The nature of pain was called in to question and whether or not life is worth living if you are in constant pain. According to Cicero (and the Stoics) pain that doesn’t kill you is by definition minor. So let’s take a gander at fortitude and what it means to a Stoic.
Fortitude is not “suck it up, Princess.” It is acknowledging hardship and being able to move past it. I think that’s where people get offended. Somehow they get confused between an encouragement to be strong and being called weak. Everyone has a limit. It is my feeling that most people underestimate what that limit is. This causes them to get offended when you suggest that maybe you could push just a little more. All pain that does not kill you can be endured.
But should it be endured? Absolutely. There is no question. Your mind is an incredible thing and will power can drive a person beyond what is humanly possible. When I first learned of Stoicism, I was amazed at super powers it seemingly bestowed on its followers. It’s not even that much of a trick. Simply remove the option of giving up from your mind. Fight on until you are beaten. Even if you are destroyed by the hardships you face, this too brings an end to the pain. No matter what pain ends some day. Hiding will only prolong suffering and lessen reward. Bonus point will be awarded if you greet the end with a smile on your face.