I discovered Marcus Aurelius' Meditations a few years ago, and it has quickly become one of my favorite books. It reads like the book of Proverbs, full of practical wisdom in quick sound bites. I highly recommend Gregory Hays' translation.
The first section of Meditations is a list of people that Marcus Aurelius is grateful to for the life lessons they taught him along the way. He also includes the specific lessons he learned from them, and there are plenty of great nuggets here. Yes, even in his acknowledgments section, MA is dropping wisdom. Here are some examples:
- “Don’t waste time on nonsense.” (from Diognetus)
- "You need to train and discipline your character." (from Rusticus)
- “Learn how to accept favors from friends without losing your self-respect or appearing ungrateful.” (from Apollonius)
- “Don’t shrug off a friend’s resentment—even unjustified resentment—but try to put things right.” (from Catulus)
- "Learn how to sense when to push and when to back off." (from his adopted father)
This is just a portion of the wisdom from just the acknowledgments in his book! It is no wonder why Meditations has been so highly revered through the centuries. This is what I love about this first portion of the book. Marcus Aurelius is regarded as one of the great thinkers and was highly respected and very powerful in his time. He was the last of the "Five Good Emperors" of Rome. But he didn't forget where he came from. He didn't forget who poured into his life and contributed to his success. He shows both humility and gratitude here.
Many of us have had people that came into our lives at pivotal moments and made a great impact. Scott Teutsch and Karl Kaufman were two men that took me under their wings when I was a young man and taught me the Scriptures not only with their words but also with their lives. They were (and still are) great role models of what it looks like to live out the Christian faith in their careers, families, and personal rhythms. I'm grateful that they took the time to invest in me, and I hope that someday people will say the same of me. Scott was able to speak hard truth to me in love, making me take ownership while at the same time showing grace. Karl constantly showed how the Christian faith was meant to be lived out in specific, practical ways and that the journey is never over.
Of course, the list is still growing. I'm grateful for the staff at Area 10 and how they've modeled leadership and pushed me to grow. I'm grateful for the work of Kim Greene and others at the Barnabas Center and the grace and patience they've shown. I'm grateful for Dan Tocchini and his work with Blood and Ethos and the fruit I'm seeing in my own life from those conversations. I'm grateful for my wife for her relentless patience, wisdom, kindness, and grit. I'm grateful to my kids for teaching me patience. The list goes on.
Who are those key people in your life who helped shape the trajectory of your life? Who are the heroes of your story? What specifically did they teach you? What would it look like to let them know how much of an impact they made and how grateful you are for them?
Remember. Be grateful. Pay it forward.