It's Not Wrong To Suffer, It's Liberating To Accept It
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Health and Wellness

It's Not Wrong To Suffer, It's Liberating To Accept It

I've started walking into every situation in the life with the expectation and awareness that I'm probably going to suffer a little bit.

It's Not Wrong To Suffer, It's Liberating To Accept It
Ryan Fan

Almost everyone in life wants to avoid suffering. I do, you do, and the majority of people around you probably do too. After unfortunate moments in our lives, after tragedy, or even after an incredible amount of stress at work, it's our natural response. Get a coffee during your afternoon slump, unwind after work with a couple beers or glass of wine, or try to find shortcuts on the Internet on homework to save some time and find the answer more easily.

The worst thing anyone can tell someone else in listening to their problems is "there's a reason for this." If someone said that to me after I reveal hardships and traumas that occurred throughout my life, I'd be beyond pissed off. So likewise, this isn't an article that is meant to demean anyone's problems or try to get people to see the traumatic events in their lives differently. No one has control over their past and their fate like that. I'm someone who has been blessed with great health and recent financial stability, and I'm well aware that most people don't have that.

I also grew up with abuse, violence, and mental illness, and those are things I used to try to put away and ignore. I've opened up and talked about it for the first time in my life, but nothing about talking about it for the first time what you'd call nice and pleasant,

However, I have come to see the role of suffering in life much differently than I used to. I recently read a very spiritually helpful book by Christian counselor, Dr. Dan Allender, "The Healing Path Study Guide: How the Hurts in Your Past Can Lead You to a More Abundant Life." Allender is a survivor of sexual abuse, but one story, early in the book, that I tell people is about one woman who had her six-year-old son buckled in her front seat, forgotten something in her house, and ran back in the house to get it. When she came back, she was horrified to see that her son had gotten into the driver's seat, started the car, and jumped out. His skull was crushed.

In a lengthy recovery process, the woman would see Allender as her counselor. She was doing better, but she wasn't magically recovered. She didn't move on. No one would after a tragedy like that, but something changed dramatically for the better in her perspective.

“Her marriage was at grave risk, and she continued to take medication for depression. Her story and the sorrow embedded in her eyes shook me. But one comment, in particular, unnerved me. ‘Thank you,’ she said, ‘for letting me know it is not wrong to suffer.’ Everyone else wanted her to be ‘fine,’ she explained. They wanted her to ‘move on with her life’."

The line, "thank you for letting me know it is not wrong to suffer" did not solely unnerve Allender, but it did me, and Stephen, the minister who introduced the book to me. I thought the quote was powerful when I first read it, but I didn't think much about it until I read it again and talked about it again.

Again, our natural tendency towards suffering in life is to try to avoid it and "move on" from it. We read about injustice, poverty, pain, and suffering in the news all the time, and our instinct is to wonder "what can be done to change this and make it better?" or "I can't do anything to change it or make it better." The first is the instinct to move on from it, and the second is to ignore it.

If there were one thing in both of these instincts have in common is that they are letting the suffering win the battle. One thing we call any form of suffering and trauma in someone's life as "baggage," but we usually see that as a bad thing that is responsible for all their negative qualities.

"Suffering doesn’t have to mangle our hearts and rob us of joy," Allender writes.

"It can, instead, lead us to life—if we know the path to healing. Healing is not the resolution of our past; it is the use of our past to draw us into deeper relationship with God and his purposes for our lives."

In a Wall Street Journal essay by Meg Jay, she detailed how many successful people who underwent hardship like abuse, alcoholism, serious illness, or poverty to their advantage and build resilience. "Many draw strength from hardship and see their struggle against it as one of the keys to their later success."

I wouldn't appreciate how great it is to be able to run, or even to move, without having a debilitating hip injury my sophomore year. I don't waste food and I'm fiercely loyal to my friends because my family grew up poor. I wouldn't be the thoughtful person or writer I am had I not gone through what I did as a kid. I am what I am because of all the hardship that's happened in my life. I used to wish they didn't happen, but now I'm grateful for the opportunities they've given me to become more resilient.

I've started walking into every situation in the life with the expectation and awareness that I'm probably going to suffer a little bit. I'll probably be tired or disappointed at any point of the day, but another cliche I love is that life is about the process, not the destination. Suffering is a part of that process. I used to dread suffering and felt like it was unnatural whenever I wasn't feeling 100% or felt down. Now, I just let myself and learn from it.

Does seeing things from that perspective make an all-nighter studying or an 8 hour shift at work suck any less? Absolutely not.

But it certainly has made me more ready and prepared for anything difficult I've had to do. It has made me much more receptive to critical feedback, and because of this approach, I can raise my hand and participate in a class, be completely wrong, and not care out about it. I can take a stand I think that needs to be taken, that I know won't be popular, and accept its consequences. I don't beat myself up about stuff as much anymore, and I know now that suffering is a necessary part of moving towards any goal and building any person's character.

Most importantly, though? I'm not trying to avoid suffering anymore. It's part of something called life. I'm not trying to resist it. And it's liberating to let myself accept it.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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