In his Discourses, Epictetus asks a probing question: “Your respect, trustworthiness and steadiness, peace of mind, freedom from pain and fear, in a word your freedom. For what would you sell these things?”
The answer, too often, is “for pennies on the dollar.” We trade our word for a small edge in business. We give up peace of mind for a bigger house or a nicer car. We mortgage our self-respect for fancy friends or fame. We sell our freedom for a job that makes us miserable, or a relationship full of incessant fighting.
We only have one life to live...and how many of us sell it quickly and cheaply instead of holding on tightly to this incredible asset we have been given? We value our principles and our happiness like penny stocks, like fetid swampland.
In Stoicism, there are four virtues that sit atop the ledger of human existence: Justice. Moderation. Wisdom. Courage. That is: Fairness. Discipline. Tranquility. Bravery. Compared to these things, everything else is cheap, if not worthless. No bargain is worth giving them up. And only a sucker sells them.