Suffering


Epictetus was an ancient Greek philosopher

Suffering arises from trying to control what is uncontrollable, or from neglecting what is within our power.

- Epictetus AD 55 to AD 135

Such simple wisdom from 2,000 years ago. At Twelve Step meetings I express this same thought in the form of the Serenity Prayer. 500 years prior to Epictetus, Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, said essentially the same thing.

So if this has been relatively common knowledge for at least 2,500 years why did it take the consequences of a devastating addiction for me to learn this basic, core truth of human nature?

I was raised to value self-reliance and independence. Overcoming all obstacles and achieving my goals were my main purposes in life. I was trained at university in how to do this. I was rewarded in business for practicing what I had learned at university. The result was a one dimensional life geared toward achievement and material success with no understanding of the needs of my personal or spiritual life.

Epictetus’ wisdom was a painful lesson for me to learn.  My attachment to the need to control people and events to meet my demands caused a spiritual crisis in my life and pain and suffering in the lives of others. I am grateful that my recovery from addiction led me to the book Alcoholics Anonymous and the various fellowships it has created. I am learning to let go of my attachment to desires. I am finding humility and acceptance. I am finally learning a simple lesson that is just as valuable today as it was 2,500 years ago.

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