3 Ways to Suffer Without Becoming Insufferable
Suffering SUCKS! It's real, it's unavoidable, it hurts and it's awful. And we have tons of words to describe it with. Pain, difficulty, rejection, sorrow, sadness, and hurt. Discouragement, grief, depression, unforegiveness, despair, and frustration. Tribulation. Turmoil. Hatred. Assault. Offendedness and regret. Then the biggey, hopelessness is always there ready to round things out to make us utterly miserable. With so many words to describe things that cause suffering how the heck are we supposed to deal with it when it comes our way? Truth is there are a number of ways we can and do "deal with it". Some ways are good. Some are not so good. And some are terrible.
Suffering can be and is within our physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, and relational, lives. And getting through the various forms of suffering require different strategies. Two of the main ones are getting to an attitude of gratitude and forgiveness mentioned below.
But let's explore what doesn't work firstly. "Suffering in Silence". This is almost impossible to do. And yet we often try. When we're in pain we can't really hide it. It comes through and impacts others whether we like it or not. We may be able to hide small things but after a time even those situations can ooze out and change how we impact others. And it's usually not in a good way. We can also slide into attention getting, sympathy searching and poor me thinking with this strategy.
You then have the "Suffering Siren". This is the person who shares, and shares and shares their suffering along with all it's most minute details to anyone who will listen. They are becoming their suffering... You know the kind of person I'm talking about. They've got a bad situation going on, (or maybe not really that bad of one) but they just can't seem to get out of themselves to consider what other peoples lives are about. Life is all about them and their problems...
Lastly, you have the "Angry Sufferer". These folks are just plain PO'ed that this stuff happened or is happening to them. They can't stop blaming themselves or others....and even God. It's not fair they may say. With a furrowed brow they rant through gritted teeth... Dare I say that when we suffer in the ways noted above we sometimes are becoming insufferable?
Now don't get me wrong. I have great compassion for people who are suffering. And my compassion comes from and through my own experiences with suffering. I also speak from personal experience having fully tried all three of my suffering examples above. And maybe all three are simply how we need to suffer when life slams us up side the head. But for how long? And can we change HOW we suffer?
Having managed to arrive at the ripe old age of 60 I can attest to some better ways of handling suffering. And I'm sure you can too. I will share just 3 examples here.
1) - TAKE A RIDE IN THE "WAMBULANCE" "So I woke up this morning with a splitting headache. You know the kind that feels like a spike is going through your temples. Light makes it hurt worse and a cold wash cloth to the head kinda helps but just a little. But now I had to go to work...in 100 degree weather...lifting 94lb bags of concrete...with a splitting headache. My kidney's are failing. Or more accurately the kidney my wife donated to me almost 10 years ago is failing. Almost 90% of it's function is gone. So physical work, especially in the heat is a huge and painful challenge. At any time I may need to get back on dialysis to just stay alive. Giant needles stuck in my arms...it hurts. Monies short. We don't have any retirement plan which means I'll need to work till I drop pretty much.... And then there's the challenges in my family where my sons are unhappy often struggling with some of their own life issues which I'm not able to fix. Etc. etc. etc".
There, that's the first strategy. Taking a ride in the "WAMBULANCE!". That's the metaphorical "complainmobile" that we just jumped into and I drove you around in it a bit. We often take our friends and family for a ride. But it's better yet to have a group of people that know you, love you, and are willing and able to just LISTEN to you and your situation when we need to go for a drive. We need to be able to vent, let it go, be real with what we're going through and what happened with people who are equipped to handle it. They aren't going to really try and fix anything, teach you anything, correct anything or hopefully judge you. They are just there to listen. Which for some is not easy feat. Especially for people who love to fix stuff, (like myself). Friends and family can be great for this but often people don't like or really know how to BE with people who are suffering. We, (the sufferer) need to try and be patient with them as they try to help. The main thing to remember is we should not allow ourselves to turn the "Wambulance" into a Motorhome that we take up residence in. We are not our suffering as much as it may feel like it and we should seek to move on from it as soon as we healthfully can.
2 - THINK OF OTHERS. Once we've gotten through our initial emotions about the cause of our suffering and gotten the support of friends by sharing our feelings about it, it's very helpful to think of others. "It can always be worse" is a phrase that outlines a truth we need to remember. And when we think of others who have had more challenging situations or endured greater loss some perspective is gained...hopefully. After that you can even seek to reach out to others who are suffering to offer a kind and loving word. Your're getting out of yourself. And this is a good thing... I think of my brother who is right now hanging on for dear life in a battle against melanoma cancer suffering excruciating pain due to the chemotherapy who called me just the other day to wish me a happy birthday and prayers for my finding a kidney donor. Or my dad who's suffered with chronic pain for decades but never shown or complained about it... The point is the sooner I get past my own problems and pains to helping others somehow I know I will feel better.
With emotional wounds or hurts inflicted by other people, (and this is where the worst suffering can occur) finding our way to forgiving them is the only way to free ourselves from the suffering that comes from holding onto anger, resentment and hatred. This also sometimes means forgiving ourselves and/or forgiving God as well.
But back to thinking of others, really what's underneath the phrase "it can always be worse" is the notion of gratefulness, or thankfulness. A much more powerful place to be during our suffering and really through all of life.
3 - "JUST KEEP SWIMMING". Lastly, in the movie "Finding Nemo" a fish named "Dory" offers to help Nemo's Dad find his son. They've looked and looked and the Dad is getting discouraged. At that point Dory says, "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming". We need to simplify life down to the basics then. We need to not overthink everything. Instead we just need to keep on swimming...
Thinking of all that can possibly happen days, weeks, or months out is a burden we're not meant to carry. Especially when we're suffering. If we focus on just what is in front of us we can get through our situation better one day and sometimes just one minute at a time.
Lastly, for me what undergirds all my suffering is the belief that my suffering has had, and does have a purpose. My suffering has taught me so much and has shaped who I am. It's helped me become so much more empathetic and compassionate to others who are hurting. I don't like it. Don't like to go through it. But there's also the knowledge that one day it will be over. The suffering will subside. It will be gone.
My faith teaches me this which gives me hope. You and I are here for a reason, a purpose. And it's not just to suffer and die. It's also not to become insufferable in our suffering. No, it's to love God, learn better ways of coping with life which will help us to love, care, and help each other more. And even at times to suffer with and for each other. Just like that guys suffering on the cross two thousand years ago suffering has a purpose. May it do it's divine work in us helping us become the best people we can possibly be.