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Know Pain, Know Gain

In last week’s post I urged you to examine your attitude toward big corporations – to stop seeing them as “Big Daddy” or depending on them for your security and future welfare.  I also gave you another challenge – to start seeing that none of us are automatically entitled to comfort and prosperity.  Here’s where I’m coming from on this.

We can all be reluctant to face the fact that life involves suffering and loss.  We’d rather think about what we feel entitled to and hold on to those things.  It’s hard to accept that our lives may not go the way we want.  Ultimately, we have difficulty accepting the fact that death will come for us all.

I want to propose a somewhat radical rethinking of this outlook.  I titled this post “Know Pain, Know Gain”, because I believe that if we don’t acknowledge our pain, we can miss out on all we stand to gain in life.

If we don’t accept the fact that pain, suffering, and struggle are an inseparable part of our lives, we will be living in an illusion.  Some people have been more upfront with their entitlement attitudes lately, but in fact most of us cherish a secret belief that our lives should be filled with comfort and ease.  Prosperity has turned our thinking around, many of us have made this mistake, and we’ve lost touch with our humanity and humility as a result.

What we’re finding out now is quite the opposite.  We are not entitled to prosperity and, in contrast, many of us are experiencing unfair, undeserved, uncaring treatment by banks and bill collectors.  We’re hearing that we’re not any good because we don’t have the money to pay our mortgages or our bills.  We hear we’re bad people, the bottom of the heap.  This is a lie.

But we still need to face the truth.  Struggle, suffering, pain, difficulty, and hardship are all a big part of life.  We don’t like having to face this, but it’s a fact.

There’s a second truth to face in all this, just as important as the first.  If we don’t let ourselves experience pain, suffering, and struggle, we will also never experience real joy and happiness.

One of the more difficult lessons I’ve ever learned is that the only way to know fulfillment and the deeper joy in life is by accepting suffering and pain.  They go together. To know one, you must know the other.

I believe our recent years of prosperity have caused us to lose our resilience.  When you look at people who have lived with hardship for a long time, like the people of Haiti who are suffering enormously now in ways that are hard to even fathom, what we hear is that they have resilience, they’re strong people.

In spite of overwhelming difficulties, they’re rising to the challenge to deal with their tragedy and loss.  Something about them is giving them the ability to cope.  In spite of their hardships, and the evil actions of some people in the wake of the devastation they’re experiencing, there’s so much goodness coming out, so much caring, love, and understanding.  These qualities are so important.

We need to get our capacity for resilience back, and we will.  But it will come through weathering the struggle and suffering of our current hard times.  We’ll learn to persevere and we’ll learn to be patient.  We’ll learn to hang in there and develop our own stronger, deeper sense of character.

This is an era we’ll probably never forget.  It’s a life-changing era and whatever comes after this, we’ll forever be affected by what we’re going through right now.  One thing I know for sure: we have the opportunity now to reshape our values in ways that will help our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren.  We can become better people – stronger, kinder, more patient, hopeful, and loving.

So, hang in there.  These are most distressing times, but do the best you can, one day at a time.  Don’t let the obstacles, the hurdles, condemnation or any nonsense like that get in your way.  Find another path.  Keep going.

Never, ever quit.  Don’t let discouragement, despair, or defeat be permanent.  Get over it, pull yourself together, pull the pieces together.  Get up, keep going, and learn from this experience.  I’m right there with you.