A Special Message for Today

By Troy Headrick

The idea for this blog came to me at 4 a.m. on Valentine’s Day.  This proves that the mind can frolic while the body rests.

Back when I was working at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey, I was given an interesting assignment.  I was asked to team teach a philosophy course and was paired with an eccentric guy—in truth, we’re all eccentric, aren’t we?—in the Philosophy Department.  Our mission was to use a series of Great Books in a course called “Social and Political Philosophy.”  He would deliver lectures on the texts, and I would use them to teach writing.  In other words, he focused on the content of the works, and I used the content to develop writing skills.  He gave multiple choice tests, and I assigned essays.

One of the books was Cicero’s On Duties, a work I now know like the back of my hand because I was required to read it at least half a dozen times.  In one section of the slim book, Cicero, a fellow who knew something about human relations and leadership, argues that that there are roughly two ways to get people to do what you want them to do.  One involves the use of intimidation, to pull rank.  Using this method is indeed persuasive, but people will follow reluctantly.  They follow because they fear something bad will happen if they don’t.  A second method involves the use of love and the showing of kindness and respect. 

Here’s the rub.  If you use the first method, don’t be surprised when your so-called followers plot against you and eventually rebel.  If you use the second, you will win devotees forever.  They will gladly follow you everywhere and in all circumstances. 

If we apply this truism to the institution of marriage, it is far more likely that your partner will stay with you through better or worse, in sickness and in health, until death do you part. 

Furthermore, your loved one will not feel compelled to follow.  She will follow because she wants to.

The message is simple.  We get from others what we give to them.  On the one hand, this should not be surprising.  It passes the commonsense test.  On the other, there’s something paradoxical here.  Through the act of giving something away, one gets more in return.  One grows full as one empties herself.  One becomes more powerful the less one exerts power over others.  Love, in fact, is the secret.

Love strengthens.  Love empowers.  Love is magic because it makes all things possible.

This belief informs my politics.  It guides my daily interactions with others.  Am I always the perfect loving person?  No, I often fail.  When I do, I remind myself what matters and try again.

Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.

32 thoughts on “A Special Message for Today

    1. I just get why more people don’t understand that if you treat others well, you’re far more likely to get the same in return. I think the psychologists call that “mirroring.” Commonsense idea. Thanks so much for the comment.

  1. “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” popped into my head as I read this. And I think it’s true! May we spread joy and love to everyone around us. 🕊

    1. True. In some cases, conventional wisdom isn’t at all wise. But, the truism you mentioned in your comment is conventional wisdom at its best. MLK, Gandhi, and many others taught us how to “win.” Why do we keep forgetting lessons we’ve collectively learned? Thanks for the comment.

      1. Absolutely. Always listen to your granny. This isn’t rocket science. Treating others well is both the right thing to do and gets things done. Thanks so much for your comment.

  2. Eff yeah. I think this second method needs to be adopted corporately, period. The H with the Peter Principle…forever.
    Sadly, as long as leaders generate dollars, any other shortcomings will be ignored.
    That’s the actual rub.
    And how we ended up here today.

    1. Let’s talk about productivity. Happy people work happily, and happy workers are those that get things done. There is no “lose” in treating others with love, kindness, and respect. Literally, everyone “wins.” I’ve long been amazed at how many bad managers there are in all sorts of places. Being a good manager is actually pretty simple. Start with being a good person. Thanks for the comment!

  3. I kept hearing Mandela’s words:

    “Love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

    Love really is what we need!

    Always a pleasure reading from you, Troy!

    1. Exactly. Let’s look at hate. Hate (literally) hurts the hater and the one who receives hate. Hate destroys physical health, mental health, and relationships. Hate destroys. Love builds. Why is this so difficult? Thanks, A. B.

  4. This same strategy can be applied to our pets too (from dolphins to horses to dogs): you can “train” a dog with force, punishment and fear of bad stuff and always be alert because these intelligent creatures can indeed rebel
    you raise and educate your pet to make behavioural choices that are ok in a relationship. This one is done with love, patience, decisiveness and dedication.
    Yes, it works in a marriage too 😉
    Have a nice day

    1. Exactly. I think Cicero’s thesis is generally applicable. Here’s an interesting story that I once heard when I was living in the UAE. I had a student who had a family member who owned and trained camels and who knew many camel owners. He told me about a cruel man who “trained” camels by using cruel methods. This same man happened to sell a particular camel to someone who owned it for a few years and then sold it back to the original owner. The camel never forgot that his original owner had been cruel, so, one morning, not long after returning to him, while the cruel man was feeding the camel, the animal looked for its opportunity. When the man turned his back, the camel grabbed his head with his mouth and broke the man’s neck. So, the man “won” while training his camel, but ended up losing his life in the end. Karma.

  5. I wonder if this philosophy will prevail with the skirmish in the current US condition of the political arena. It seemed to play out during Hilter’s reign.

    1. Unfortunately, after all other methods have been exhausted, evil sometimes has to be contronted in ways that don’t look like love. The only times that war are justifiable are when it happens in self-defense or in the defense of others. Biden, a man I would say who is generally empathetic and kiind-hearted, will win in the end by governing in ways that help people. His “loving” policies will help him win many followers. What do you think?

      1. I hope you’re right, Troy. I admire Biden and his political history. However, the mindset of some Americans has gotten so way off track that I wonder if they can be reached anymore.

      2. Some are definitely lost and “way off track” as you put it. Those who haven’t gotten utterly drunk on the Kool-Aid will likely warm up to Biden and his approach.

  6. Love really is the answer. There is no situation where kindness is the wrong choice.

    Not being married as I close in on my mid thirties has at times been a struggle. I’ve always seen myself with the same woman for life, someone to share that journey with, and I find myself wondering why we haven’t found each other yet. For a time I will pout and feel that sadness, but then I see a reminder like that you’ve written here. Wallowing is not an attractive quality, and feeding anger out into the world, even if it seems warranted, is unlikely to endear me to anyone.

    Instead, I try to embody relentless positivity in the face of everything, with an awareness of others so I don’t spring it in others in an unhelpful way.

    As always, Troy, thank for sharing something which encourages thought about actions and their consequences.

    Peace to you and your family.

    1. Hi, Hamish. Why do you feel like you need to be married at a certain time? (I hope that question isn’t too personal; I apologize if I’ve crossed the line.) Like you, when I was your age, I had expectations for myself. But, then, I had an opportunity to realize that these expectations were foisted upon me by what society expected of me. My family, society, popular culture all tell us that we have to live our lives according to certain expectations. Get an education, get a good job, find a wife, have kids, and so on. Who says? These norms get inside us and leave us feeling like failures if we haven’t met the plan, if we’re “off schedule.” One of life’s challenges is to find our own path. To set our own expectations. By the way, I love your line: “There is no situation where kindness is the wrong choice.” Absolutely. You’ve said it better than I could (and did). Thanks so much, Hamish.

      1. You are all gravy, we learn through active and healthy discussion. 😊 I believe I thought I needed to be married due to the feeling societal and social expectations were being foist upon me. (By the way, foist is a fun word.) Same reason I have my first university degree because going to university was “the thing to do”. It’s only in the past five or so years, maybe three, that I’ve been able to see clearly in my mind what I want. And flipping my perspective to saying, “I look forward to finding a partner to share life with, and getting to know people along the way to getting there”, and “I look forward to having children, if and when I’m married and it happens”.

        The big goal for me at the moment is, “I look forward to editing my book manuscript every time I do, and will be thrilled when each edit is finished! Then I look forward to submitting it for publishing!”

        Flipping my perspective to one of progress and enjoying the process, like AP always says, has been a game changer for me!

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