A Good Quote for Your Arsenal

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What progress, you ask, have I made? I have begun to be a friend to myself.

Hecato of Rhodes, Greek philosopher
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Not much is known of Hecato’s life, and little remains of his writings. But this quote lives on and speaks volumes to me. It has stuck with me over the years because I think it is some of the most useful and practical advice to come out of two thousands years of philosophy. It somehow gives me solace to know that people were discussing this depressing but important concept thousands of years ago. I hope they still are. Well I am, right? And I hope you’ll join me.

I think this quote gives power to the small steps we often have to take. When looking back on the darkest times of my life, it is only me that could have pulled me out. The times when I’ve most needed help are also the times when I am at my depressing worst. I become devoid of personality and the only thing sparkly about me is the glint off the daggers I’m throwing. There are times I do not like myself—my bad habits or my opinions or my limitations. Sometimes people can reach an arm into the abyss and try to grab my hand but I drive them away with a slap of surliness. Sometimes others have caused me pain, sometimes I have caused the pain to myself. But in the end it comes down to how soon I am willing to release it, grow from it, and give myself some credit for taking a baby step in being a friend to myself, because if we can’t be friends with ourselves, then who will?

Knowing that I am a work in progress at all times helps sustain me and keeps me moving forward. Or least moving. Sometimes it’s all one can do.

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4 responses to “A Good Quote for Your Arsenal

  1. Hecato had it right. Being a friend to oneself. So much of the time, I fight the interior dialogue — I’m no damn good, etc. No one is around telling me that, it’s me. The quote of Hecato suggests that we ease up on ourselves, realize it’s an imperfect world and go out anyway. We are works in progress, as you write. May I write a few lines from the Talmud? (I’m not religious.) “If you are not for yourself, then who is for you? But if you are for yourself alone, who are you? If not now, when?”

  2. I think we are harder on ourselves than anyone else could ever be.

    But we have stuff to do, we need to function and survive and pay bills and feed our families (mine are four-legged, but just as demanding…except I don’t have to send them to college). Life is hard enough without walking around feeling bad all the time. So yes, ease up.

    Of course all this is assuming a person is not evil in some way that should be excused.

    That Talmud quote is quite complicated and thought-provoking. I would love to have heard some of the rabbinical discussions of it!

  3. Asked once in a social discussion group “How can you raise a child’s self esteem?” I was astounded by the dearth of wisdom in the pap (socially expected and politically correct) replies.
    My own answer was met with a stunned silence—

    “Set the kid a task that will test him to the limit, but make it one that you know he can do …”

    —and conversation started again in spits and spurts after a brief hiatus. (I didn’t go back after that night.)

    Love begins with love of self, which means Self-Respect.
    SR don’t come out of no bottle—more than anything else it has to be earned, genuine, and there’s no fooling the judge.

  4. Amen. I wonder if a large percentage of humans have lost their capacity for self-respect, or that their vision of it has been so warped that it’s actually harmful. All the introspection in the world won’t make a better person if they think it’s OK to be cruel.

    I often think about this–that many of the philosophies meant to help us thrive can backfire and serve a wicked purpose.

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