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herculaneum_bust_zenoStoic, n. and a.

One who practices repression of emotion, indifference to pleasure or pain, and patient endurance.

Oxford English Dictionary

I heard this word a lot in the midst of the Jessup Visa Debacle. My team coach was fond of saying it.

My stoic attitude in striving for the team, while my participation in the international round looked unlikely. My stoic practicality in discussing how the team should pack their bags, while mine were conspicuously unplanned for.

In a situation where a person is acting stoic, the last thing you should do is mention it. If they bring the issue up, fine. Don’t force the issue. Don’t bring it up yourself.

Being stoic is putting a band-aid on a stab wound to the heart. It’s being functional because the alternative is to hide quivering from the world. It’s survival by force of will.

Calling someone stoic is ripping off that plaster to check if the wound is still fresh. It’s cutting someone to see if they still bleed.

It’s cruel.

My coach was trying to be complimentary. That’s not what I heard. What I heard was “Let me test how strong this person is. Let me remind them of their desire. Let me remind them that they can’t have it. Let me do it again and again. Let me see if their will fails.”

In that moment, your desire refreshed, it becomes tempting to surrender to despair. To let the will fail. Every fibre around that stab wound swells. You’re being invited to fail, being told that its human to fail.

It takes an almighty effort to resist. To take a deep breath. To decide to focus on what matters: here and now. To focus on what can be improved. That effort is emotionally draining.

I started to hate our Team Coach for forcing me through this. For making me relive it every time. For being so inanely well meaning whilst inflicting pain. I’d never despised someone with that intensity before. I didn’t even know I was capable of it.

Do us all a favour. If you’re in a situation where someone is being stoic, keep your admiration private.

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