Some Thoughts on Suffering

1. Suffering is universal. It is something we can’t avoid, or completely hide from. It is a fact of life that all of us are going to have to deal with a certain amount of disappointment, failure, loss and grief.

2. We do not suffer equally. There are people who seem to be dealt a much worse hand than others. These are the people who experience one major trauma after another major trauma … or who witness terrible atrocities … or who are hit by serious illnesses – which have a devastating impact, and a terrible prognosis.

3. When we suffer so intensely, we need a place of refuge. Suffering on this level cannot be borne alone.   

4. Because suffering is universal, we might expect that other people would be there for us. We might expect them to be kind, understanding, and to respond with sensitivity and empathy.

But all too often that isn’t the case.

5. Instead, when our suffering is unbearably intense, often other people want to hide, or run away.

So that is exactly what they do. They hide, and run away, from our suffering and pain.

6. How do they do that?

They do that by saying nothing. By changing the subject. By making a joke out of something very serious. By turning the subject into an intellectual or medical discussion. By going off at a tangent and talking about something only vaguely related to what is being so tentatively shared. By avoiding that person – at all costs – in the future.  

7. This has two major consequences:

a. First, the person who was brave enough to share their devastating story, is left abandoned, isolated and alone. And now they suffer doubly, as well.

They suffer because of what has already happened to them, and they suffer because they feel silenced, abandoned, rejected and alone.

b. Second, by avoiding such suffering we harden ourselves. We put a wall – a distance – between ourselves and life. And this comes at a tremendous cost.

Because living fully means we must engage with all of life …

The good parts and the bad parts.

The wonderful parts and the awful parts.

8. Embracing this is hard; it isn’t for the faint of heart.

But life is not for the faint of heart!

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out. Beautiful people do not just happen.” Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.   

16 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Suffering

  1. It can be difficult to come alongside someone in their suffering. It makes me feel vulnerable as well. Plus, what if I say or do the wrong thing? But perhaps it’s not so complicated. Maybe people just need to know that I care. Three words: “Are you okay?” And then sincerely listen to what they say. This is doable!

    Liked by 3 people

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