Monday, April 21, 2014


If you’ve ever spent much time talking to brain tumor victims, care-takers, friends and family, you know that they suffer. They suffer physically, mentally, financially, spiritually and, I’m guessing, a whole lot more ways, too.

At the same time, I’ve never believed that suffering is good for the soul. If suffering was good for the soul the world would be chock-full of saints, and that doesn’t seem to be the case.

David Brooks, in an Op-ed- piece for the New York Times, talks rather convincingly about “What Suffering Does.”  Here’s the first four paragraphs of his article:

“Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself in a bunch of conversations in which the unspoken assumption was that the main goal of life is to maximize happiness. That’s normal. When people plan for the future, they often talk about all the good times and good experiences they hope to have. We live in a culture awash in talk about happiness. In one three-month period last year, more than 1,000 books were released on Amazon on that subject.

But notice this phenomenon. When people remember the past, they don’t only talk about happiness. It is often the ordeals that seem most significant. People shoot for happiness but feel formed through suffering.

Now, of course, it should be said that there is nothing intrinsically ennobling about suffering. Just as failure is sometimes just failure (and not your path to becoming the next Steve Jobs) suffering is sometimes just destructive, to be exited as quickly as possible.

But some people are clearly ennobled by it. Think of the way Franklin Roosevelt came back deeper and more empathetic after being struck with polio. Often, physical or social suffering can give people an outsider’s perspective, an attuned awareness of what other outsiders are enduring.”

Personally, I feel I’ve endured more than anything else. But if you’re suffering, or know somebody who is, you might want to read what Brooks wrote.

Actually, my feelings on suffering are inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. who famously said, ““As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation -- either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”

I hope I have the grace to do likewise.

Image credit: <a href=''>kmiragaya / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

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