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“He who suffers before it is necessary suffers more than is necessary.” —Seneca

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A bit of wisdom from the stoic philosopher Seneca.  Too many times, we are consumed with worry about things that haven’t happened yet.  These things that haven’t even happened yet, or may never happen, rob us of the current moment, and with that, our happiness.  Let’s look at a classic example of how we sometimes suffer more than is necessary.

The Dentist Visit

You’re tooth has been bothering you.  You know you have to go to the dentist, but you have never really been a fan.  You just know that you are going to need a root canal or that you have a cavity and it is going to be painful.  Oh no, you may even need a needle in your gums just to numb you up.  All of this scares the crap out of you and absolutely steals any possible happiness you have right now.  You can’t think of anything but that 8am appointment with pain in the morning.

The moment arrives and you go to the dentist.  Within ten seconds, he finds the problem.  You have a a very small piece of food that is lodged between your teeth.  Apparently you have been brushing, but not flossing, and you have failed to get this piece of food out of your mouth for days.  It has been rubbing against your gums, causing pain, and a small infection.  The dentist quickly removes the piece of food, gives you a little lecture on flossing, and writes you a prescription for the infection.  The pain in your tooth already seems better, but the relief you feel in your stomach is much greater.  All that worrying for nothing more than a little piece of food.  That bit of worry would not allow you to enjoy anything else until you knew the outcome of your dentist visit.  You were consumed and suffered much more than you needed to.  What a shame!!!

By the way,  sorry to all the dentists out there.  I don’t think anyone is a fan of opening their mouths and being probed.  I know it is a necessary evil, and I am thankful for it, but I don’t look forward to my visits.   Keep up the great work, but I hope to keep my visits to the minimum required.

 Final Thoughts

Maybe you are not afraid of the dentist, and that example didn’t really apply to your life, but I hope you understood what was being said.  We can’t control the future and what will happen to us or the ones we love.  We can, however, control what we worry about.  Think about this…85% of the things we worry about never happen.  And with the 15% of things that do happen, they are usually not as bad as we thought or they teach us something valuable that will help us in our future.  Sure, there are some terrible things in life, but the majority of the time, they don’t happen, so don’t be consumed with worry over them.  Don’t let them steal your happiness.  Don’t be consumed by “what ifs” and unknowns.  Find joy and happiness in the current moment. 

If you are nervous about something you have to do tomorrow, put it out of your mind and enjoy today.  Make sure your plans are set for tomorrow, but then let it go and be happy in the moment.  Here is a real example from my life.  I had to have routine blood work done this morning, and I can’t really stand needles, but I followed Seneca’s advice.  I made the appointment for this morning, come up with a morning plan, and then put it out of my mind. I had a great, relaxing night and then executed my plan this morning.  The blood was drawn and I didn’t really feel the needle.  Way to go Maria…you did great drawing my blood!!!

Don’t suffer more than you have to when it comes to the unknown.  Prepare all you must, and even play out worse case scenarios so you can plan accordingly, but then let it go.  Remember what Seneca said,

“He who suffers before it is necessary suffers more than is necessary.”

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