Suffering is kinda helpful.
Okay, scratch that.
Suffering is EXTREMELY helpful.
I don’t mean, “someone kidnapped and tortured you” suffering (though I’m sure anyone who goes through that has the chance at gaining these things, albeit that way of learning is unneedful and horrible).
I’m talking about suffering. Everyone suffers. Horrible things happen. Loved ones die. Loved ones hurt you. Loved ones take ill. Vice versa. You’re given two horrid choices. You’re left without choices. You’re left without purpose or love. You could lose your house. You could lose your limbs. Let’s not even get started on what strangers could do to you. The list can go on and on.
The point is, suffering can help us, if we allow it to. Instead of grumbling and cursing the whole time and deciding the whole world is out to get us and everyone should burn. Only do that some of the time. 😉
Oh, oh! And I suppose I’ll point out that suffering *can* help us. It all depends on whether or not we let it.
- Humbles you. Most times suffering of any sort causes you to take a look at how horrible things could be, and how you benefited before or will again, when the suffering is over. Sometimes it beats you down so thoroughly that you take a good hard look at your own behaviors, actions, and responsibilities connected to the suffering. It opens you up to the possibility that suffering can be used for something positive, something to strengthen you, instead of giving over to jealousy, resentments, and letting it simmer down into a bitter personality. Who can suffer, and with an open heart and mind, find that life isn’t so horrible, and learn to be thankful for what good they do have in their lives?
This opens you up compassion, empathy, and the ability to connect with others. In other words, it helps you to learn to be human, to feel, and not only for yourself but for others as well.
- Makes the joys truly joyful. There’s a quote by someone talking about how if broccoli didn’t taste so bad, no one would really love chocolate so much. While I like broccoli, I do see his point. I LOVE chocolate. Would I love it so much if all other food didn’t taste so nasty or bland, or at least only a fraction as yummy? Probably not. If all food tasted amazing like chocolate, it’d just be food. Eh. Suffering allows us to really highlight in our hearts and minds just how joyful the joys really are. Because we know how badly the suffering feels.
“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.” – Rumi
- Helps you learn how to be present for your life. Take a look at what positives and blessings you have. When suddenly, everything sucks epically, you begin to search for what is good in your life. And often, people are surprised by what they find; blessings everywhere in their lives, even during the worst of trials.
Realizing you still have positive things in your life allows you to be AWARE of them, be present in the moment with them, and really enjoy them.
How often do we have to have something stripped from us before we realize how badly we took advantage of it? How much we really enjoyed it – or rather, would have, had we given it the time of day instead of automatically skipping through it on autopilot, consumed with our ‘to-do list’ and rushing through the days?
- Makes you smarter. You definitely learn something Seriously. How do you get a brick thrown at your head every Tuesday without learning to take a different road? If you look, there’s something you’re learning while working through the suffering.
- Makes you stronger. Builds inner strength and character. Building resistance is the same when doing so mentally or physically. The more you resist giving in to negativity or giving up, the stronger you become. The more you focus on the outcome, the light at the end of the tunnel, the more you focus on the day you’re in right now and how to retain something positive from it – even while you’re struggling and hurting – the easier it becomes.
You’re building muscle. Only, this muscle goes towards your character, not the beach body. You need both in life, trust me, if you’re to enjoy it.
- Gives you more optimism. Usually this comes after or towards the end of our trials. When we can see afterward how difficult it was. Yet we still had the ability to make it through. We may have even gotten something out of it. It becomes more apparent that even the hardest of trials is doable. Who doesn’t feel a bit more optimistic, knowing they made it through Hell with all their limbs and most of their sanity still attached?
- Perspective is an amazing thing. There’s another quote floating around that I love. Unfortunately when things become “over used” in people’s opinions, it mostly becomes trite or cliché in public opinion. I, however, still like things that I like. Regardless. The quote goes something like this: if you focus only on the negative, you’ll have more negative. If you focus on the positive, you’ll have more of the positive.
I think this is so true. Everyone has something negative in their life. Daily issues, tests, and trials. But everyone also has things they can count as positive, as blessings, as goodness in their life, even when their suffering outweighs their joy. When all you do is focus on the sludge of life, it’s all you think about, it’s all you begin to notice. When you try to find the good in your life, you notice there’s more than you thought.
Getting perspective from suffering helps you learn how to enjoy the little things before they’re gone or neglect brushes them aside.
It also helps us to learn that trials can be endured joyfully, or at least less miserably, if we focus on the positive too.
- It helps you change, helps you grow. You make changes in your life. Things you never would have seen before as harmful or potentially harmful, you get rid of. You exchange it for something different, something you actually want and can enjoy.
I cannot sum up all the ways or reasons you change. But suffering changes you. It opens you up. Sometimes it gives you the wisdom to remain closed to someone or something you know will only harm you. Suffering brings a different way of seeing your world. Once you see it differently – no matter how it is that you perceive it now – you will change to live in accordance with it. Even if you’re in denial, you still change.
I think some suffering is good for you. You learn from it, you change, you grow. But then there’s a time where the suffering isn’t helping you any longer and it needs to go FAR… FAR… AWAY!!!!!!
Sometimes we are forced to endure trials longer than we find needful or longer than we think we can handle. We often ask, “what am I missing?”, “why is this still happening?”, when will this end?”, “how am I supposed to keep enduring this”?
To this, let me assure you, if you’re missing something, you’ll eventually figure it out, so don’t sweat it – be mindful, be aware, be open-minded. It is still happening because it is still happening. Trees grow, the sun rises, puppies are born, and rain falls. It will stop when it will stop. You can handle it, regardless. If you couldn’t handle it, it would have stopped already. Life doesn’t want to break you. It wants to give you the opportunity to burst into flames and truly live. Whether you break or bend is absolutely up to you (regardless of how cheesy you find this).
I’ll also note that some suffering we wouldn’t have to go through if we’d make better choices in life. But the great thing is, suffering can allow us to learn from that too. So we don’t mess up in this way again, for the right reasons.
If it’s the point of your day to simply get through it, you’re not going to enjoy the things, people, and situations you could enjoy. Your weeks and months become a jumble of things to get through.
What is the point of living that way?
If you can learn to find joy in every day, even if you’re suffering, your life will get measurably better. You’ll change and you’ll see those changes in yourself and your life.
Now, I’m not saying that you need to be chipper and bubbly and smiley all day. NOT going to happen. No one is going to be happy or find joy in every moment of every day. And we need to be honest with ourselves with what we’re feeling. If we’re feeling crumby, we must allow ourselves to feel that way. We simply don’t need to take it out on anyone else, and when it’s time to let it go? Let. It. Go.
All I’m saying is, be open to the good things. Look for them, watch for them, instead of expressly waking up ready to find the negative in your life and survive it.
Time doesn’t heal all wounds. But given time, you’ll learn to live for the joy in your life instead of trying to survive the negative.
Four of my favorite quotes on suffering:
“All experience is great providing you live through it. If it kills you, you’ve gone too far.” – Alice Neel
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” – Helen Keller
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” – Khalil Gibran
“We are all broken. That’s how the light gets in.” – Ernest Hemingway