What would [insert your name here] do?

We can remove most sins if we have a witness standing by as we are about to go wrong. The soul should have someone it can respect, by whose example it can make its inner sanctum more inviolable. Happy is the person who can improve others, not only when present, but even when in their thoughts!

Seneca, Moral Letters, 11.9

Seneca was a powerful Roman statesman and he was rich. He had the cover and the means to do pretty much as he pleased, just like today’s rich and powerful.

But like most Stoic philosophers, he sought to live a good life. When tempted to go wrong, he would imagine Cato the Younger by his side. “What would Cato do?”, he would ask himself. Given Cato’s reputation for moral rectitude, this was the equivalent of today’s newspaper test.

As we think of the rich and powerful who were recently dragged to testify in front of US political committees, beaten by the media, and ridiculed by late show hosts, we can safely assume that they now wish they had done things differently. Unable to hear the cognitive dissonance on their own, they now wish a trusted friend had spoken up.

Living a good life not only provides you with peace of mind, it also makes you a Cato for someone else.

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