August 1

The High Cost of Brotherhood

In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey states that "one of the most important ways to manifest integrity is to be loyal to those who are not present." Epictetus was also credited with saying the same thing:

"We ought to do well by our friends when they are present, and speak well of them when they are absent."

We sometimes forget the true value of the relationships we have. When we breach the trust of those with whom we are connected, we lose much more than a friend, we lose a part of ourselves as well. Today's reading reminds us to how important it is to consider our words and actions carefully in the light of our relationships.


Remember a time when you spoke 'hard words' about someone close to you. How did your listeners react? How did the subject feel? How did you feel? How were relationships changed as a result?

Read The Discourses, Book II, Chapter XI, v. 12-15


    • In v. 12, Epictetus expects us to already have a 'designation.' In the rest of the passage, what descriptions does he use to expand on that designation?
    • In v. 14, the translator (W. A. Oldfather) chose the word pelf for the Greek word κερμα (coin). What additional nuances is the translator drawing from the context (use the footnote for additional guidance)?
    • In v. 13, Epictetus mentions a skill, and in v. 15, he brings forward attributes that may be considered talents. How do the differences between the two kinds of attributes affect the meaning of the passage?


    • Today, before making a comment about an absent individual, whether innocent or insulting, remind yourself of the relationship that ties you to the person. Was your intent likely to match the perceptions of your hearers? What will the cost of the initial reactions be?
    • Select an action or comment (which may include no action at all) that will help to strengthen the relationship you have, while staying true to your own designation.
    • When acting, remember that the results will be out of your control. What will you lose if the relationship is damaged despite your efforts? What are the potential benefits of a strengthened relationship?


This evening, spend a few minutes remembering a relationship that was damaged by your words or actions. Do you remember what precipitated the conflict? What were you hoping to gain or retain? What did you lose as a result of the event? What we the actions you took that did not embody Stoic virtues (even if you were not aware of the virtues at the time)?