Don’t Complain, Don’t Explain: The Stoic Path to Perseverance
by Donavon L Riley

In a world inundated with challenges, the sage words of Benjamin Disraeli echo: “Don’t complain, don’t explain.” This succinct advice can guide us through the ups and downs of daily adversities, helping us to recognize when we are adding the weight of complaints to our burdens. 

Perils of Complaining

The Stoics believed in cultivating virtue to attain inner tranquility and so, regarded complaining as a poison corroding the soul. Seneca, one of the most prominent Stoic philosophers, noted, “He who fears death will never do anything worth of a man who is alive.” Similarly, one might say, “He who complains will never achieve anything worthy of a soul at peace.”

Complaining not only diverts our energy into unproductive channels but also deepens the grooves of negativity in our minds. It is a self-inflicted wound, a continuous loop that perpetuates the perception of victimhood, hindering our ability to rise above challenges.

The Weight of the World

In a world besieged by problems – from personal predicaments to global crises – the Stoics advocated not for indifference but for resilience. The Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, observed, “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”

This Stoic perspective challenges us to redefine our relationship with adversity. Instead of succumbing to the weight of worldly problems, we are encouraged to perceive challenges as opportunities for growth. By reframing our mindset, we lighten the burden of obligations, responsibilities, and troubles that often seem insurmountable.

Don’t Complain, Overcome

“Don’t complain, don’t explain” is not a call for passive acceptance; it is an invitation to action. Epictetus, another Stoic philosopher, who was also a slave for many years, emphasized, “We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.”

This choice, inherent in the Stoic philosophy, is transformative. Instead of expending energy on complaints, we invest it in finding solutions. Rather than dwelling on the injustice of our troubles, we focus on navigating through them with grace and fortitude.

Perseverance in the Face of Adversity

The Stoic path advocates for perseverance in the face of adversity. As Seneca aptly stated, “He who is brave is free.” It is the freedom that comes from transcending challenges, from not being enslaved by the weight of our complaints.

In the obligations and responsibilities that accompany each of our lives, obstacles are inevitable. The Stoics teach us not to bewail our fate but to forge ahead with courage. Complaints, after all, do not alter circumstances; they merely add extra weight to the burdens of our existence.

Lightening the Load

“Don’t complain, don’t explain” also serves as a rallying cry, beckoning us to roll up our sleeves and face life’s challenges with a determined spirit. The Stoic approach entails acknowledging our troubles, discerning what is within our control, and then acting with unwavering resolve.

Seneca declared, “It’s not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste much of it.” The wisdom encapsulated in these words is a stark reminder that complaining steals moments that could be spent in constructive endeavors. Every complaint is a missed opportunity to invest in personal and collective growth.

Don’t Complain, Transform

In embracing the mantra of “don’t complain, don’t explain,” we receive an rich inheritance that includes resilience. The Stoics did not seek refuge in complaints; they sought strength through adversity. As we confront our challenges, both personal and societal, we can draw inspiration and motivation from this attitude.

The Stoic path is not about denial or suppression of emotions but about channeling them into constructive action. Instead of complaining about the state of the world, a Stoic strives to be a force for positive change. In the Stoic narrative, complaints are transformed into catalysts for transformation.

Embracing the Stoic Mantra

And so, “don’t complain, don’t explain” becomes a powerful refrain. It is a reminder that we possess the agency to shape our responses to the world’s tumult. By embracing the Stoic mantra, we cast off the shackles of complaint, choosing instead to embark on a path of perseverance, growth, and resilience. In this choice lies our power to lighten the weight of obligations, to transcend adversity, and to live a life that resonates with the Stoic wisdom that has withstood the test of time.



*The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Spotter Up Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

By Donovan Riley

Donavon Riley is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author, and contributing writer for 1517. He is also a co-host of Banned Books and Warrior Priest podcasts. He is the author of the book, "Crucifying Religion” and “The Withertongue Emails.” He is also a contributing author to "The Sinner/Saint Devotional: 60 Days in the Psalms" and "Theology of the Cross".

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