Have you ever heard the phrase “you are the people you surround yourself with”? The aphorism is so common nowadays, it is a little cliche but the Stoics knew how important the people around us were. The Stoics understood that we, as living human beings, are not only built by ourselves and our day-to-day experiences, but also by the people we surround ourselves with. By our community.
We are built by not only ourselves but by those around us. We grow in this life based upon the community of people we keep as company. In life, there are times where we must lean on one another for support, and in turn, they may one day need to lean on us.
In his introductory book on Stoicism, How to Be a Stoic, Massimo Pigliucci details exactly how important the idea of community was to a Stoic.
“Stoicism was very much a philosophy of social engagement and encouraged love for all humankind and Nature as well.”
As the Emperor of Rome, Marcus Aurelius was responsible for an entire country. He understood that we as humans are relational, meaning we are built by our community and the relationships we hold within that community, whether directly or indirectly.
In book eleven of Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations, he speaks directly to what it means to be a part of a community.
“Have I done something for the general interest? Well then I have had my reward. Let this always be present to thy mind, and never stop doing such good.”
We do not grow without help. You will always hit a point in life where you must ask or take someone’s assistance to achieve something, whether it be in business, personal goals, or anything else one may require.
We must understand that by leaning into another for support, it is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength. We must build each other. We must fight for the common good of our community and those around us. We have teachers, mentors, friends, and family. The actions we take reverberate to those around us. Think about the concept of pay-it-forward that has taken off within the United States with Starbucks. The premise is simple. You pay for your coffee and for the person behind you’s coffee. But this small act of kindness has immense effects. For example, these “Starbucks chains” which form a series of people who when it is their turn to pay, because the person in front of them already paid for their coffee, generously in return pay for the person behind them’s cup of coffee. These small acts reverberate throughout a community and are meaningful to those involved. Just look at this example here of how a small gesture made a big difference in a stranger’s life.
It is not so far fetched to believe that it is acts like this, or others that may have taken place during Marcus Aurelius’s time, which caused him to write the following in Meditations:
“What is not good for the swarm is not good for the bee.”
Only by understanding that we require others can we truly grow. This is why we have teachers, coaches, mentors. This is why we have friends and families, why we like to interact with others. We learn from people. We lean on them for support and guidance. We grow as a community.
By being of service to others, by helping others grow, even if on an individual level, we are building our community. We are strengthening our bonds with others. We are in service to others and that is why long after we’re gone, our actions will remain through those affected by them, by those who knew us and saw what we did. Those will continue and be passed down. The lessons taught today will be taught tomorrow.
When we do good for our community, we should feel good about it. We should feel fulfilled about helping someone else. It is only through these bonds of comradery and growth that we can attain true fulfillment in our own lives. We are built by those around us, and in turn, others are built and strengthened by us.
We’ve enlisted the help of Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and Seneca to assist us in providing even more additional guidance to help you live your most virtuous life. Want to see what wisdom they have to provide? Complete the form below and join our private monthly newsletter. Oh, and did we mention there’s also free goodies for signing up?