We as humans, despise it. In fact, we will spend our entire lives trying to avoid it. Every single innovation and advancement is made out of the desire to end or prevent it. Why then, is it one of the most valuable things we have?
If you take a look at your life right now and consider how little suffering you have to endure, you’ll start to see. Nearly every aspect of your life is designed around the premise that suffering can and should be avoided. You need only to look at any advertisement for any product out there on the market as the base selling point is that is solves a problem. It claims to put an end to a pain of sorts, large or small.
So what does that mean for us? Is that the sole purpose of our existence, to seek the end of suffering? Maybe, but what happens to us when that suffering is unavoidable? When no matter what we do, there is nothing to abate it?
Well, if you look at suffering as a vaccination of sorts, you can become impermeable to it, or at the very least, resistant to it. The majority of the value derived from suffering is in what you let it do to you. You can let it make you bitter, jaded, and develop a cynical point of view, sure. That seems to be a common and understandable reaction to it. But there is something else.
What if you allowed that suffering to temper you, harden you, strengthen you? In it’s purest form, Iron is fairly soft. It is only when heated and beaten by the blacksmith does it become stronger, and can then be wielded as a weapon against the forces that bring about suffering.
This year marks the first year that I have used the strength given to me by the suffering and pain that I have had to endure as a weapon. For the longest time, I let the fear of pain and suffering dictate my actions. After being homeless for years and having to fight to keep my family fed, I was afraid of taking any kind of risks.
But lets be honest, we all have that very natural instinct of self preservation. We are wired to steer clear of the things that can do us harm. Journeying into discomfort is not something that sounds appealing to us in the slightest. At least not without an understanding of the benefits that we can gain from it.
Look at weight lifters. We place ourselves under strain and pressure intentionally. We do it because we know that with enough of it, we become stronger and more powerful. The suffering that life can and will bring about is exactly like that depending on how we treat it.
We can treat it as a handicap, or we can treat it as an opportunity for growth and temperance. A chance to make us more aware of precisely who we are and what we’re made of. The trick is to understand that suffering is unavoidable. No matter how much we prepare for it or seek to avoid it, it will come in its own due time.
If we are going to suffer regardless, what matters is what we take from it.