Why is self-mastery so fundamental to a successful life?
Because, as Voltaire wrote, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”
Self-mastery, the ability to control one’s own thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, was absent last Wednesday, January 6, 2021, as United States citizens stormed the United States Capitol to interrupt the political process of our government.
Absent in the horde of rioters was:
self-awareness: an awareness of one's own personality or individuality.
self-determination: free choice of one's own acts or states without external compulsion.
self-control: restraint exercised over one's own impulses, emotions, or desires.
Present was a collection of individuals who displayed enthusiastic and unquestioning commitment to another person. This horde was called to arms and gathered at a rally to incite violence. They were encouraged to march, fight, and harm fellow citizens in the name of another person.
What occurred was the beating death of a police officer, destruction of public property, and erection of a gallows as the mob chanted, “Hang Mike Pence.”
Some people chose not to attend the rally, even though they may agree with the leader. And a few people chose not to march down to the Capitol. Some people realized they were in a dangerous, illegal situation and went home. Citizens who possess self-mastery, walked in the other direction, or never showed up in the first place.
Self-mastery helps us make better choices.
It helps us avoid mob mentality. It inoculates us from brainwashing and destructive behavior. When we are in control of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, we choose more rationally and healthfully.
Every American citizen woke up on January 6, 2021 and made a choice for how they would spend their Wednesday. Choices have consequences.
If we want to make better choices, we must know our own mind, define our personal values, and exercise control over our actions.
This quote bears repeating:
“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”