Updated: Apr 17, 2019
Everybody Hurts Mostly, people are not interested in suffering. They attempt to avoid it like the plague, and with good reason because it’s uncomfortable and often painful. Whether it’s mental, physical, emotional or spiritual…quite simply, suffering hurts.
The trouble is that most people equate suffering with loss, rather than gain. We tend to forget that there is beauty within our suffering. Remember that there is no pleasure without pain, no gain without sweat, no smiles without tears and no success without failure. This duality is unavoidable.
Consider the physical pain of athletics or getting our bodies in shape, the mental anguish of earning a degree, the emotional war of starting a business, and the agony of pregnancy and labour.
Intentional Suffering Many of us willingly endure these challenges because we know these types of suffering lead to incredible rewards, leaving us so elated that often the very moment we receive our prize we forget about the arduous road we traveled to get there.
But what about the trials that you don’t choose? The broken heart you inherited from unrequited love, the battle riddled scars you endured from fighting an addiction, the crippling and horrific ache of losing your child, or that constant unshakeable thorn in your side that you did not ask for. What then?
When we are in the midst of our lament, we often come to a point where we swear that we cannot take it any longer. But we do. We survive. We eventually adapt, and once we’ve crossed over the anguish, we find ourselvs in one of two places — we’ve either become more or we’ve become less.
We Always Have a Choice While some people are certainly the product of their own demise, most of us do not willingly choose our afflictions. Yet the one choice we always have lies within our perspective. What if we looked at suffering in a new light? What if we chose to embrace it, sit with it, and carefully let it reveal to us what it truly is? Every scar is a defining moment. It’s a kiss that breeds compassion, strength and understanding. Dare I say a gift?
Our perspective becomes everything and while no one desires constant, unrelenting suffering, there is a place for it in our lives. Not only is it inevitable because of the human condition, it can be an endowment.
Life’s Michelangelo Suffering is a fabulous sculptor; it shapes us, molds us, and sharpens us. It breeds humility and keeps us honest. It deepens our empathy, our compassion and our understanding. Pain has a way of helping us to see clearly by replacing the veil of desire with the clear vision of gratitude for our life, our blessings and humanity. Nothing provides such proficient polishing as when we suffer.
I have a favorite quote by Michelangelo of which he once said, “If I am more alive because love burns and chars me, as a fire, given wood or wind, feels new elation, it’s that he who lays me low is my salvation, and invigorates the more, the more he scars me.”
To me, this means we’ve got to take ownership of our suffering, and cherish it as much as we can. More than that, growth through pain requires a process and a purpose. By intentionally putting ourselves in positions of discomfort, pain becomes a conductor of growth and development resulting in the eventual achievement of success. When we own and understand our suffering, we grow. We become more than we were.
However, without purpose, pain and misery are more likely to consume us than to produce any positive results. Suffering without structure is worthless, because it doesn’t make you wiser, and it doesn’t produce growth. Suffer now or suffer later, but we all must suffer. It is an inherent part of being human.
There Will Be Blood To live means that there will be blood, sweat and tears. It’s no secret that everybody hurts; it’s what we do with it that makes all the difference. Problems become a part of our lives so that we can discover potential and gifts that we didn’t know we had. Suffering has many forms and if embraced with the right attitude it always provides transformation.
Take a second to look back through your life. Think for a moment about the suffering you’ve endured, willingly or not. Whatever your suffering was, didn’t it make you into a more complete person? Aren’t you proud of what your suffering prompted you to achieve?
If we understand adversity, if we become an expert in suffering, it changes the game. Simply put, pain motivates change.