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Quote: Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.

This one’s origin is somewhat difficult to pin down, with the usual source listed as an unattributed Chinese Proverb.  But the most comprehensive investigation I’ve encountered, which incorporates the reason for the above attribution, suggests it was first penned in 1907 by William L. Watkinson.

candlesanddarkness

To me, this one is sublimely simple and can be crudely expressed as follows: Action > Whining.  It dovetails nicely with Cicero’s, ‘More is lost by indecision than wrong decision,’ which at the time of this writing is conspicuously absent on my living room walls…

::furiously scribbles down a note to correct this oversight::

Everyone is given to whine about his or her lot in life.  It’s natural.  It’s human.  As babies, we scream when things don’t go our way because, at the most fundamental level, evolution has ‘taught’ us that if we whine about something then someone who cares about us will intervene and attempt to correct the issue.

But what, exactly, is being achieved by whining–even as a baby?  You’re asking someone else to act for you.  Rarely, at least rarely after childhood, this is indeed the best available option.  But as we gain agency of our own, whining about things is not only nonproductive, but usually it’s counterproductive.

How many of us like to listen to our workmates’ complaints about their lives?  But how many of us still subject our closest friends to such bitch-fests regarding our own lives?  There’s an obvious disconnect here that most of us aren’t consciously aware of.

So the next time you think about offloading your stresses on your friends, try this: offer to help them with one of their problems instead.  Don’t be an ass, or make the offer on a hot-button issue you know they’re unlikely to accept your help with, but do think up a way you could help them with something they’ve consistently complained about.  If you’re hanging with the wrong crowd, you’ll offer your help and they won’t return the favor, which is good information for you to have regardless of your relationships going forward.

But if you hang with the right crowd, your friends will be quick to reciprocate–and instead of cursing the darkness, you’ll have all lit candles that drive it away from each other.

Published inClassical LiberalismCultureFreedomQuotesVirtue

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