Seniors who have delved into philosophy at all during their lives might have embraced or shunned stoicism. In addition, many people who have never heard anything about this philosophy actively live out some of its tenants because of their own natures, beliefs or situations. However, what you might not realize is that stoicism and Scripture intersect at some points that might be interesting and helpful for seniors trying to live their best lives in assisted living communities across the country.
Stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy. Some basic tenants of stoicism include:
A mental state that follows reason and virtue is of the utmost value; external drivers such as money, fame or success can never breed lasting happiness
Emotions are based on judgments and negative emotions are based on thinking something bad has happened or will happen; stoics aim to train these judgments so they don't occur and cloud the mental state with emotions
People should live in harmony with nature, understanding that they are part of the whole
Humans have control over certain things, such as their own mental state, but not over external things; believing you have control over something you don't and acting accordingly often leads to unhappiness
On the surface, it may seem like this philosophy has little to do with Christianity, but Scripture and stoicism are not completely at odds. Consider some of the points below.
The Bible is clear that people are not in control; God ultimately has a plan, and that plan is being carried out over ages and epochs. Attempting to take control over things outside of your purview can lead to stress and other negatives. Instead, the Bible says to "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Scripture, like stoicism, doesn't trust emotions. Scripture says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)
The Bible also cautions us to take control of our emotions lest they let in things which might cause problems for us. "A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls." (Proverbs 25:28)
Studying different thoughts and philosophies at any age in life can be a good thing. These new thoughts don't have to derail us from our own beliefs but can help us see more clearly or better understand our beliefs.
For seniors of faith, studying stoicism provides benefits such as:
Understanding, again, that happiness doesn't come from the external things of this world. Whether you live in a grand mansion or a well-equipped and cozy assisted living apartment, you can find happiness internally.
Remembering that you can't control everything. Whether you're the matriarch of your family and struggling to give up an active role in daily life or you can't understand why a health concern is plaguing you, learning to let things go and submit your entire life to Christ can be freeing.
Building new habits of facing what life has to offer without complaints. It's healthy to discuss your life and struggles in a constructive way with friends or professional providers, but harping on the negative in the form of constant complaints is something neither stoicism nor Scripture seems to find of much value.
Posted on Sat, July 20, 2019
by Shawn Deane