Essays on Life
The Art of Suffering
We desire roses without thorns,
Yet it is the thorns which keep the rose healthy.
In each of us stills lives the child that longs for everything to be all right. No parents arguing, no shins that bruise. We want a painless world. This unreasonable desire has brought about a popular attitude that all suffering is unfair and should somehow be eliminated. That is the priority. This is not only impossible, but would be detrimental to our personal growth and the ultimate evolution of our character.
A pain-proof life would be disastrous. Pain tells us which lines cannot be safely crossed. We believe pain to be an unwelcome disease, when it is closer to a vaccine against future misery. If we listen unemotionally to the pain, it can tell us what we did wrong. If you are too stubborn to change, your pain can at least serve as a warning to more objective onlookers of what to avoid.
It is not always wrong to cause suffering. Suffering can actually be beneficial. To admit it when we are wrong is a useful suffering. If someone honestly tells us when we are wrong and we admit it, that is our best chance of beginning to make the changes that will make us right. If, instead, we resent an honest person for making us feel bad, we have no chance of seeing the real problem--what we did wrong. Suffering, when it is not resented, can lead us to the hard search for a real solution to our problem.
It is sometimes wrong to remove suffering. To remove it without removing the cause is a shallow solution that can be destructive. We can often remove the pain of a disease with drugs. But in comfort, the incentive to find the real cause of the disease is lessened. We remove the symptoms, while the disease continues to spread.
Our biggest obstacle to personal progress is not pain or suffering. Rather, it is our excessive automatic response to the hurt. It is our refusal to admit what our part has been in bringing on the suffering. There are links in this chain that we can break. Our situation may not be changeable, but our reaction to our situation is potentially within our control. Suffering, when it is seen clearly and not indulged (with depression or self-pity), can help us to evolve into something higher.
Copyright 2004, Inkless Press