Stoicism and Empathy: What the Stoics say about Empathy

People correlate Stoicism as someone who always acts on logic and doesn’t emotionally connect with people. I can’t blame them since we frequently see Stoics on television as someone cold and distant. However, that’s the tip of the iceberg. While it is true that some Stoics tend to lack empathy, that’s not always the case as there are Stoic texts that value compassion for others. So, do Stoics lack empathy?

Some Stoics lack empathy as they only see Stoicism as a philosophy about not caring for what we don’t have control of. That’s why some people practicing Stoicism tend to self-isolate. However, true Stoicism also teaches empathy, listening to others, and loving humanity.

In this blog post, we are going to dig deeper into Stoicism. First, of course, I will explain why people tend to see Stoicism as someone cold and distant. But we will also see Stoic’s view of empathy.

Do Stoics Lack Empathy
Do Stoics Lack Empathy

Do Stoics Lack Empathy?

While it is true that Stoics are pretty bad at emotional connections, it is also true that Stoics value connecting with others.

Stoicism teaches us to listen to others. While many people tend to communicate and always think of what to answer next, Stoics value listening.

For them, listening is an act of respect for others. People tend to like others who listen to them since these people are pretty rare.

Furthermore, speaking less is a source of power.

Actively listening to conversations builds empathy as a person would have a deeper understanding of what the other person is speaking of.

Thus, the more you listen, the greater the likelihood you’ll be empathic.

Furthermore, when it comes to communicating with others, the Stoics believe that we are connected via the world or universe.

This means that one of the goals of Stoicism is to harmoniously interact with each other as they believe that we are part of the same world.

Even if people see Stoicism as someone cold and distant, Stoicism values giving love to humanity.

Cicero, a Stoic Roman politician, said that the love parents give to their children can expand to loving humanity.

As a Stoic, he believes that we can love others the way we love our close relatives.

Furthermore, Stoicism teaches us to serve others without expecting anything in return since we can’t expect things from others.

This is because of the dichotomy of control.

The Stoics believe we should not care about what others think because we can’t control it. Instead, what we can control is how we act.

That’s why they believe we should love others without expecting something in return.

Now, talk about empathy.

As I said, Stoicism is not all about being cold and distant. While it is true that Stoicism teaches us to act based on logical reasoning, we can’t totally suppress emotions.

The problem is when people think of Stoicism in a different light.

As I said, the dichotomy of control is only the tip of the iceberg. If a person trying to be a Stoic takes this too seriously, there can be problems.

People who take Stoicism too seriously tend to try suppressing their emotions, which should not be the case.

When this happens, they try their best to be too logical. But, unfortunately, this makes it hard for them to connect with people on an emotional level.

In the end, this leads to being not empathic or cold to others.

As you can see, this depends on how the person views Stoicism. When it comes to being good to others, Stoicism teaches how to act based on values and virtues.

Being too cold or emotionally unattached to others is an effect of learning Stoicism in the wrong way.

So how should we take Stoicism in the right way to have some empathy? At the end of this post, I will recommend my other post about how a Stoic should view emotions.

Do Stoics Have Empathy?

Stoics have empathy as it teaches us to listen to other and love humanity. In addition, Stoicism teaches us that we can expand our love for our close ones to humanity itself. However, some Stoics tend to see emotional attachment as irrelevant, making some of them lack empathy.

As I said earlier, Stoics always talk about being a good part of humanity. Also, it teaches us that we can love others like how we love our close ones.

But to what extent?

The Stoics are very particular with virtues. For them, virtues are necessary for the betterment of humanity.

The Stoics believe that we should act based on four virtues. These are wisdom, courage, justice, and moderation.

As you can see, each one of these is necessary for the betterment of humanity. If each of us acts on these four virtues, the world will indeed be a better place.

Plus, Stoics are also particular in the joy of serving others.

For them, Serving others, such as donating or volunteering to charity, gives a greater sense of joy.

That’s why people would often feel good when they help others. But, the truth is, even Stoics know the value of helping others.

If that’s not empathy, I don’t know what is. That’s why real Stoics such as Cicero and Marcus Aurelius show some focus on empathy in their texts.

As I said, the problem is when people tend to take Stoicism the wrong way. There is no way we can entirely repress emotions since it makes us human.

How Stoics View Empathy

The Stoics view empathy as an essential part of communication. The Stoics believe that we are a part of a bigger community known as the universe, which can be considered as humanity itself. Therefore, acting and communicating based on values and virtues is one of the core fundamentals of Stoicism.

As we’ve discussed, Stoicism is about listening to others. Thus, it builds empathy.

Furthermore, it teaches us the joy of serving. We have to be a good part of society.

To do these, we should acknowledge the importance of values. The four virtues that Stoicism teaches.

By acknowledging that we should act according to these values, we become better people.

Lastly, do not think of Stoicism as becoming 100% logical. This is a wrong approach to Stoicism. Becoming 100% rational is outside our control and would not follow the dichotomy of control.

This is also the cause of people becoming too distant and cold.

Instead, Stoics should act based on the good of the many and show empathy to others.

What’s next? Now that you know that Stoics should understand how to handle emotions, here is my blog post that talks about how to control emotions as a Stoic: Does Stoicism Make you Emotionless?

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Recommended Books

The next thing is books. Books are, for me, one of the cheapest ways to get invaluable information. We can learn personal development, finance, career, relationships, and many more from books.

Here, I will be listing my favorite books in different categories.

  1. For Beginners7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey – Personal development has a lot of concepts and ideas to learn. Thus it can be really hard for beginners to know where to start. Thus, I recommend this book since all the basic concepts of personal development are here(except finance, check what I recommended for that)
  2. ProductivityThe One Thing by Gary Keller – This book teaches us the power of focusing on one thing which is the ultimate source of productivity. The concepts taught are what I am using to constantly publish YouTube videos while maintaining this website.
  3. Busy?Make Time by Jack Knapp – This book teaches us how to make time for the things we love. The concept is really simple but I think that makes it a book worth reading.
  4. HealthLifespan by Dr.Sinclair – This Book teaches about the latest scientific research on lifespan. In his book, he has shared numerous things he is doing to slow down his aging process. This can be as easy as eating less which he recommends.
  5. FinanceThe Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason – Perhaps one of the first books I’ve read about Finance, this book for me is the best if we are talking about learning basic finance such as basic saving and investing. The concepts are very simple but effective.


Take this advice as a grain of salt.

I don’t recommend buying Audiobooks one by one. I mean, audiobooks can be quickly finished by listening while working out or doing some mindless tasks.

So here is to save you some money. Just go for a monthly subscription to Audible. I believe that you will save a lot of money with that plus, they usually give freebies to anyone starting.

My Audiobook Recommendation will always be the same as my book recommendations, but I personally like The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins. I like how she is so casual while reading her book.

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