It isn’t the things that happen to us in our lives that cause us to suffer, it’s how we relate to the things that happen to us that causes us to suffer.
Suffering. It’s a word in the language that none of us likes to hear; in fact, most of us cringe when we hear it. Yet suffering is a part of the human condition. It’s a sign, a symbol, that we are alive. None of us can make it through this life scot-free when we live in a world which is broken. It could be physical pain, an emotional or physical illness, an uncontrollable virus, a breakdown in human relationships, losses that devastate us to the core or wounds that will not heal. But we all experience suffering of some sort at some time.
When pain and suffering hurt the most it’s easy for us to start to question or imagine that we somehow brought the hardship and strain upon ourselves. And when that happens we begin to beat ourselves up.
What are those thoughts that creep into our heads? Thoughts such as –
What did I do to deserve this?
Why do I have to go through this?
What didn’t I do that I should have done to prevent this?
But really what those thoughts are, are lies. They are our minds telling us –
If I was a better person, things like this, bad things, wouldn’t happen to me.
But that’s just not true. We are far too hard on ourselves. We doubt ourselves, criticize ourselves, second-guess ourselves. Over and over our minds play the same, old tape –
If I had only done this.
Acted this way.
Then maybe …
… my life would be easier,
… less painful,
… less stressful.
Sure, our actions or inactions do determine many things in our lives. But when we are in the midst of suffering, it doesn’t help us to find healing or clarity when we constantly berate ourselves. That just makes the pain that much more acute.
We let guilt take over and get the best of us. We are always trying to place blame for what has gone wrong. Most of the time that blame, that guilt, is placed on ourselves, which rarely helps us to heal. It only makes the road back that much more arduous. We get some bad news in the beginning of the day and we allow it to ruin the entire day. We constantly live in the past. That old tape keeps replaying over and over again. But it’s a lie. It doesn’t help us. It can only hurt us.
We recently received word from someone who has been re-diagnosed with a potentially terminal illness. In our conversation with him he has shared about his own tendency to blame. He blames himself for not taking a better path towards healing. He blames himself for not taking the proper preventative measures in the first place. He even thinks that somehow he brought this on himself. So now, he is haunted by his past and by thinking things that are not helping and are not true.
So, how does someone like him move on, toward a place of healing and peace about his circumstances?
We know a family whose own worst nightmare become a reality – they lost a child. For more than five years they coexisted in a latent atmosphere of guilt, anger, bitterness and blame. One of the parents holds a profound grudge against the other parent, believing that the other parent should have done more to prevent their child’s death. How can they stay married and live in a healthy relationship again, leaving the pain of the past behind them?
Ultimately, they need to say –
Ultimately, the man with the newly re-diagnosed illness must say –
Enough of all of it.
When we’re in the midst of the hurt, the pain, the suffering, the hardship and the disappointment, we are especially vulnerable to those thoughts creeping in. And when we are we need to say
I am not going to place this blame, play this game, any longer. ENOUGH!
I am not going to believe this lie any longer – that I could have, should have, done something differently. ENOUGH!
But instead I am going to let go and allow myself to move towards being healthy again.
We’re not saying that the suffering doesn’t hurt. it absolutely, always, does. But the past is the past. We can’t control what has happened in the past. All we can do is make today, this day, a day when ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
Perhaps ENOUGH! is a word and a concept that we need to employ more often every day.