Marcus Aurelius was an emperor in the Roman Empire between 161 and 180 A.D. who is regarded for his personal ideas on Stoic philosophy. Mind you, I am by no means a connoisseur of philosophical thought and am often left bewildered to the point of frustration when I attempt to understand what I am reading. However, Marcus captured some thoughts on the character of authentic manhood in his Meditations circa 170 A.D. A section that I not only understood, but wanted to reciprocate in my own personal growth & development. He comments on the lessons he learned from his teacher:
From Rusticus I received the impression that my character required improvement and discipline; and from him I learned not to be led astray to sophistic emulation, nor to writing on speculative matters, nor to delivering little hortatory orations, nor to showing myself off as a man who practices much discipline, or does benevolent acts in order to make a display; … and not to walk about in the house in my outdoor dress, nor to do other things of the kind; and to write my letters with simplicity … and with respect to those who have offended me by words, or done me wrong, to be easily disposed to be pacified and reconciled, as soon as they have shown readiness to be reconciled; and to read carefully, and not to be satisfied with a superficial understanding of a book; nor hastily to give my assent to those who talk overmuch; and I am indebted to him for being acquainted with the discourses of Epictecus, which he communicated to me out of his own collection.
While Marcus was not writing from a Christian standpoint, there is a wealth of wisdom captured here!
1. Your friends are your sharpening stones.Off the bat, we see that Marcus has found a treasure trove of wisdom in this friendship. I’ve never stopped to think about what the men in my life are teaching me, aside from those in positions where it is a natural influence (i.e. Sunday School teacher, pastor, etc.).
2. Always be learning & improving. It is foolishness & sinful to suggest that you have life all figured out. Your character always needs refinement in pursuit of the mind of Christ.
3. Do not seek vanity. We, as men, like to strut. Even in Christian circles, we flaunt our vanity in the form of how well we pray, how much scripture we know, how regularly we attend church services, as if to say that our walk with Christ is more sophisticated than our brothers.
4. Write with simplicity. There is a reason Christ taught in parables.
5. Read carefully. Do not read your designated scriptures because Lifeway made a suggestion in your morning devotional book. Rather, read to understand and strengthen your relationship with Christ.
6. Do not seek argument for the sake of argument. We are easily susceptible to arguing Christian apologetics for the sake of arguing, but if it is not rooted in love, the only point that remains is our self-centered desires to “talk overmuch” and vie for a position of power. This is sinful.
7. Share your journey. As men, we should be building each other up and sharing the experience of growing in Christ. It does no good to keep what Christ has taught us to ourselves. If you come across a good book, an applicable article be quick to share it if it is relevant. Sending a “Hey, remember when we were talking about this” text to a buddy let’s them know that you are still thinking about their conversation … that the time spent with them was valuable to you.