Suffering – are you a victim or an observer
Suffering is a normal part of life. No one escapes its presence in life. But the question remains – do you use it to learn or whine, get wiser or complain or get stronger or feel like life is picking on you – a victim mentality.
During my many years I have endured a great deal of suffering and pain so I am not coming at this topic from a mindset of arrogance, denial or superiority but from humility and gratitude. How can you feel gratitude for suffering you might ask? Great question but since sooner or later we all suffer in life in some way and in the end suffering or its cause or contributors gives us the choice as how we view the causes and pain from an attitude of acceptance, anger, helplessness or gratitude. Let me explain.
There are many causes of suffering – the loss of a loved one before their time, the end of a relationship you didn’t see coming or didn’t choose, the loss of health weather from the passage of time and aging or poor decisions along life’s path, the loss of financial security, the loss of a career or job in no way due to your performance or skills. I could go on but suffering is just as much a part of life as celebrating another birthday.
Suffering can destroy us and those around us or it can cause us to pause and think about what we still have in spite of our loss or pain due to it. Over the years I have met hundreds of people who have suffered in some way where they didn’t feel responsible – whether an act of nature or some stupid driver on the highway but in the end these people grew or remained stuck in a victim mentality. Not to mention how many people chose to blame God for their trials or adversity.
I am not going to get into a spiritual discussion about whether God is responsible or not but rather how we can choose to respond to the causes of our pain or suffering. Following are a few of the categories I have come up with that determine our reactions or responses to the cause and consequences of suffering.
Before I share these views let me define what I mean by being an observer since I am confident I don’t need to define – victim. An observer is someone who has the courage, maturity, experience or ability to observe life’s circumstances whether positive or negative from a neutral perspective. Regardless of the situation – whether winning a million dollars in a lottery or losing a job, career or business an observer is able to stay focused on what to do and when and how and not staying stuck in the –why. Yes, they experience the same pain due to a loss but they use their pain to grow, learn or get stronger and not waddle in the negatives for days, months or even years. They handle it, manage it and move on.
I am in no way suggesting that the loss of a loved one doesn’t cause tremendous pain, guilt or even regret as I have experienced these during my life and I am sensitive to what or how this loss can impact your life both now and in the future, but life is about what is ahead of us not what is behind. Yes we feel pain, remorse, agony, grief and even anger at times but to live the time you have left letting these dominate your remaining time is to waste life – period.
The learner –
The learner uses suffering to learn about life with all its reality both the positives and negatives. Yes they feel the sense of loss and experience the pain associated with it but once the period of mourning has passed they use their pain to grow and see life more clearly and maturely. It doesn’t matter whether they have experienced tremendous success or significant failure – they use it to learn and become wiser so that similar events in the future will be easier to navigate through.
The blamer –
The blamer refuses to take responsibility for their loss. They point fingers at others – the economy, the government, their boss, their spouse or even their neighbors, but in the end they lack the courage and will and carry on without finding a scapegoat somewhere. I could give you dozens of examples, stories or illustrations of blamers but here is just one – This person I know a few years ago lost their job due to their lack of professionalism, effort, commitment and maturity. They then spent the next couple of years trying to get another position. The problem was, whenever they were not selected for whatever reason they immediately went into – blame mode and they wonder why they were having so much trouble landing a new position.
Blame is simply the unwillingness to take responsibility.
The denier –
The denier (yes I know this isn’t a word) fails to deal in reality. They remain stuck in excuses, rationales or even denial that something has happened or they may have contributed in some way to the situation.
In the end we will all suffer in some way and how we choose to react to its cause will ultimately contribute in some way towards our continued future pain or the ability to move on with life with attitudes of courage, patience, trust, belief, forgiveness, compassion or peace.
“We create our fate every day, most of the ills we suffer from are directly traceable to our own behavior.”