Epictetus once stated in a general term:
That may leave some people asking what that actually means. How can our own opinions torment us? It's usually other people's opinions that suck. Our opinions are all we have and we need to stand by them faithfully, right?
In life, we are usually led to believe that the mark of any great man or woman is one who stands by what they say, do, or believe. That digging into our convictions or taking a steadfast stance on a certain position is a solid means to gaining respect from people.
And when we believe that, our ego eats it up. Our egos want nothing more than to gain the respect from others, so we don’t want to budge from the positions we take because if we do, we fear others will view it as a sign of weakness and lose respect for us. Even if we are shown a better way, educated properly, or shown proof of our misinterpretation on a subject, we dig in hard. The majority of us fight tooth and nail to defend our positions (and you see it all the time on social media) and ultimately dig deeper holes for ourselves, creating more of a headache, and it’s all in the name of standing by what we say or do because that is the popular opinion in today’s society of what it means to be respectable.
Let’s face it, no one likes to be wrong more than us cops, but sometimes our opinion or perception of what it means to be someone who is respected can be flawed at times, and that can cause us problems. Problems within our agency, amongst co-workers, amongst citizens, but worst of all with in ourselves. There’s no worse feeling than being proven wrong, realizing that we are wrong, and then never taking ownership of it; again, all in the name of trying not to appear weak. We are our own worst enemy at times.
This scenario of “dying by your convictions” is just one example out of many where we, as both a society and as cops, allow our impressions, opinions, and perceptions create problems for ourselves.
In the book Meditations, Marcus Aurelius further explained Epictetus’ stance on how we “torment” ourselves or create difficulties for ourselves (which we do). He made the claim:
And then broke that thought down into 5 reason that we do violence unto ourselves. Committing any one of these violations is a sure way to stress yourself out, have people lose the respect for you, or worst of all, even create legal or administrative problems for yourself. So, what ar