Most of us are sitting at home right now, going out only when necessary. But even now, it can happen that we overhear somebody telling someone else off for real or imagined breaches of quarantine rules. Or maybe someone thinks they have special rights and do not have to stick to the rules they demand everybody else follows precisely.
I guess you know the type.
Once the quarantine is over, we will all meet more of these disagreeable specimen again. They have been around for as long as our species exists and Marcus Aurelius has this to say when it comes to dealing with them:
“Begin the morning by saying to thyself, I shall meet with the busybody, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil”Marcus Aurelius
You meeting them is inevitable, so we have to remind ourselves of one thing: It is not our fault we meet them. Their envy, arrogance and general lack of virtue stems from their own ignorance. They are unaware their behavior hurts others.
According to stoic principles, we then have two options of dealing with this kind of people. We can teach them or we can endure them.
Massimo Pigliucci elaborates on this in his excellent podcast:
But there may also be a trap waiting for us, especially when we decide to teach others better ways, and the trap is: Do we ourselves act like we want others to act? Again, Massimo Pigliucci elaborates, this time on a thought by Musonius Rufus:
We always have to make sure we embody the virtues we want to teach others. If we do not, we will rightfully be viewed as hypocrite and be no better than many leaders in the world today. We taint our good intentions and fail to lead by example if we are being hypocritical. In this case, it would be advisable to simply endure and work towards bettering ourselves to the point where we can teach and lead by example.
So, whenever you go out, be aware you will meet disagreeable people. If the opportunity arises, teach them to be better people, but only do so if you yourself are genuinely virtuous or at the very least as virtuous as you can be.
If your virtue does not suffice, endure, and accept their actions are not something you can influence. Soon, you will no longer be in their presence and safely back home.