We live in a time, to be sure, in which few people are willing to respond to an insult with humor or with a nonresponse.
Indeed, those who advocate politically correct speech think the proper way to deal with some insults is to punish the insulter. What most concerns them are insults directed at the ‘disadvantaged,’ including members of minority groups and people with physical, mental, social, or economic handicaps.
Disadvantaged individuals, they argue, are psychologically vulnerable, and if we let people insult them, they will suffer grievous psychological harm. Advocates of politically correct speech therefore petition the authorities —government officials, employers, and school administrators — to punish anyone who insults a disadvantaged individual.
Epictetus would reject this manner of dealing with insults as being woefully counterproductive. He would point out, to begin with, that the political correctness movement has some untoward side effects. One is that the process of protecting disadvantaged individuals from insults will tend to make them hypersensitive to insults. They will, as a result, feel the sting not only of direct insults but of implied insults as well. Another is that disadvantaged individuals will come to believe that they are powerless to deal with insults on their own — that unless the authorities intercede on their behalf, they are defenseless.
It is worth noting that Epictetus would, by modern standards count as doubly disadvantaged: He was both lame and a slave. Despite these disadvantages, he found a way to rise above insults. More important, he found a way to experience joy despite the bad hand fate had dealt him. The modern ‘disadvantaged,’ one suspects, could learn a lot from Epictetus.
—William B. Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy (via zerogate)
It often happens that what seems trivial to us is more important to God that what we think important. Therefore, we ought to take everything God puts on us evenly, not comparing and wondering which is more important, or higher, or best. We ought simply to follow where God leads, that is, to do what we are most inclined to do, to go where we are repeatedly admonished to go — to where we feel most drawn. If we do that, God gives us his greatest in our least and never fails. ….
But even if God is in all ways and all things evenly, do I not still need a special way to get to him? Let us see. Whatever the way that leads you most frequently to awareness of God, follow that way; and if another way appears, different from the first, and you quit the first and take the second, and the second works, it is all right. It would be nobler and better, however, to achieve rest and security through evenness, by which one might take God and enjoy him in any manner, in any thing, and not have to delay and hunt around for your special way: this has been my joy! To this end all kinds of activities may contribute and any work may be a help; but if it does not, let it go!
Meister Eckhart, 1260-1328