Rule Nine: A Kind Disposition


The final rule from Meditations Chapter 11 is here!

“Ninth, consider that a good disposition is invincible, if it be genuine, and not an affected smile and acting a part.”

One of my all-time favorite books is “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.  It’s title leads one to believe that it is all about how to manipulate people to get ahead or be more popular, and to this day, I think that if you follow it’s precepts, you will do both.  However, “How to Win Friends…” is about fundamentally changing yourself from within, more than about acting a part.

In the section, Six Ways to Make People Like You, Carnegie introduces these first 2 concepts:

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.

These 2 actions have a lot to do with what Marcus is talking about in his ninth rule.  SMILE!  When you smile, though, you shouldn’t be forcing it, you should actually genuinely feel like that smile.  Have a good disposition and be cheerful, and of course things will go much better for you…especially with other people.

Have you ever cut someone off in traffic inadvertently, and then realized that YOU were the idiot.  I have.  Have you ever had the opportunity to provide them with a simple gesture, and I do mean a kind one, that shows you knew you were at fault…Maybe by mouthing “I’m sorry” to the other driver if you have the chance?  I have.  I have seen the faces of the offended go from “I would punch you in the face if I could” to “Oh, it’s OK, everybody makes mistakes” in an instant.  It really worked.

Driving in traffic can be a training ground on the philosophical journey.

Driving in traffic can be a training ground on the philosophical journey.

This is what Marcus is driving at with this ninth rule.  How difficult is it to become angry with someone with a cheery disposition?

“For what will the most violent man do to thee, if thou continuest to be of a kind disposition towards him, and if, as opportunity offers, thou gently admonishest him and calmly correctest his errors at the very time when he is trying to do thee harm, saying, Not so, my child: we are constituted by nature for something else: I shall certainly not be injured, but thou art injuring thyself, my child.”

Now, there is no guarantee that if you encounter a violent person, that “being nice” to him will change his attitude.  There certainly is a likelihood that if you are passive you may get clocked, or attacked.  Remember though from rule eight, that things happen and our anger and improper judgment could certainly interfere with how we deal with them.

An armed robbery comes to mind.  Let’s say you are robbed at gunpoint.  Unless you’ve encountered a complete psychopath (which is not impossible…also, the influence of drugs could be a player), this robber is very nervous, scared, and apprehensive about his own safety.  If you seem the least bit threatening, he might get jittery, more apprehensive.  If you get righteous or threaten to attack, you certainly might find a bullet in your body.

“- And show him with gentle tact and by general principles that this is so, and that even bees do not do as he does, nor any animals which are formed by nature to be gregarious. And thou must do this neither with any double meaning nor in the way of reproach, but affectionately and without any rancour in thy soul; and not as if thou wert lecturing him, nor yet that any bystander may admire, but either when he is alone, and if others are present…”

Crossing bridges on our journey...

Crossing bridges on our journey…

The robbery example is an extreme one.  More often you are just dealing with crabby, rude people.  Maybe it’s just as simple as this: you be the better person.  I tell my son this all the time, when his younger sister is being difficult.  Just because someone else is being a jerk, why should that change how you act?

Photo credits: Bridge © Michael Jastremski for
Trafic © Adrian van Leen for