What does it mean to be slandered? Stand by a stone and slander it. If a man listens like a stone, what effect has the slanderer? – Epictetus
What does that mean?
This quote is part of a longer discussion regarding why people do seemingly senseless things, specifically to squeeze into a play to get a good seat by the rich and powerful.
The generic response is to not do such a silly thing. If you don’t go to see the play, you will not have to brave the crowd and risk being crushed by all the people there.
The specific portion in the quote is regarding the same idea. If we do not do the silly thing, we cannot be hurt by the consequences of doing it. Instead of a crowd at a theater, the quote is about an insult.
It says if we are like a stone, the slander means nothing to us. Only if we have a weakness can the slander cause us harm. If we refuse this weakness, the slanderer has no hold over us.
Why is not being bothered by slander important?
Perhaps you have heard of the old saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” That saying, often used by children to disavow an insult, has the same basic premise at heart. The words only sting if we listen to them, if we let them into our ears, our mind, and our heart.
If, instead, we listen like a stone, we will hear nothing, and the words will have no impact. No matter how viscous the slanderer may think they are with their choice of words, we can still ignore them. Neither the speaker nor the words themselves have any more power than we ourselves grant to them. Give them none.
Think about that. How different would the world be if no one chose to be insulted, if no one accepted slander, if no one threw a punch at the dropping of a word? Someone calls me the ‘N’ word? What do I care. I like being a Nerd. I’m comfortable in my own skin. Or I could choose to ignore them completely.
Let them shout, I’ll be the rock against which their words break and shatter, dropping harmlessly to the floor, and drifting away on the breeze. Their words don’t matter if you don’t care. Be the rock, and let the slander break and fall away. Think of what that would do for your attitude, our sanity, and your soul.
Where can I apply this in my life?
I would start by asking when you tend to get slandered. I discount friendly ribbing, as that is normally largely ignored already. If it’s not, you might want to consider changing the meaning you give to the word. You can choose to take control of the word, as I did with the word Nerd many years ago.
If there are places or times or people who repeatedly slander you, who go out of their way to make you unhappy or even mad, that would be where I would start. Part of what you might want to do is evaluate how necessary they are to you life, and consider dumping them. You don’t need the aggravation, right?
But the other thing to consider is how much you want to change your reaction. If you wish to become like the rock when it comes to slander, you will need to change your attitude towards the words, to take the sting out of them. But be careful not to harden your heart. You want ears like a rock, not a heart like one.
Remember, we are the ones who put meaning to the words, and we are the ones who can choose to give it no meaning at all, or even turn it around. When I was growing up, being called a nerd was an insult, but I chose not to take it that way. I have embraced my nerdish-ness and become even more nerdy with each passing year.
Take one situation, preferably one that happens from time to time, and consider how you could change what the words mean to you, which in the past have stung. What if you weren’t proud of your nerdy-ness? How could you change how you reacted to the word? Could you associate it with someone cool or rich because of how nerdy they were or are?
The obvious choices might be the tech giants, but consider the amount of tech in an average recording studio or race car, and there are lots of nerds out there having fun, and ignoring the haters. How did they change what the word meant to them? Perhaps they considered the tech as a tool, and advantage to get more done.
Ultimately, we each have to make the decision what a slanderous word means to us. We can accept the slander, we can challenge it, we can embrace it, or we can ignore it. Some of those options lead to peace and calm, other choices can lead to fist fights. We choose our path, just as we choose what the words mean. Choose with care, and have respect for yourself.
From: Twitter, @AskEpictetus
confirmed at : The Discourses of Epictetus, tr. by P.E Matheson,  Page 268, last half of 5th paragraph.
photo by elminium