No one “deserves” pain and suffering. But it is an inevitable consequence of life. I believe it is necessary for us to learn and to grow. We all have our share of hardships and I know how it can feel like you are getting more than your share. What if you feel you just don’t deserve the mountain of suffering that threatens to crush you? What if you ache because of the pain you see a loved one going through?
I began to reflect on this when my mother, upon hearing about my chronic pain and recent problems with my spine said, “you of all people don’t deserve this.” She is referring to the fact that I’ve been through a lot. At the half way point of my life I find that I have had 6 major surgeries, confront chronic pain daily, have come close to death on three occasions, have battled ADHD and the discrimination that comes with it all my life, and lost my only sibling in a car accident when he was just 39. There is more, a lot more, those are the highlights.
And yet I do not see myself as enduring more than “my share.” I see all these set backs and challenges as providing me unique perspectives and abilities. I can empathize with just about anyone, going through anything. I feel I have the ability to take my sorrowful experiences and use them to help others. I have learned to see life as a journey where there are no guarantees of anything. I choose not to use my one life to bitterly thrash out at some roll of the dice. If Einstein was correct and, “God does not play dice.” Then there is meaning in all my life experiences, good and bad.
If everything in life was perfect it would be a boring existence. We would likely not truly reach the limits of our capacity for growth and accomplishment (or in rare occasions surpass what we or others thought possible.) We would miss out on meeting many good people as we reach out for help. We would not be able to provide these people with the fulfilling experience of helping another human being and thus fulfilling their role.
Kahlil Gibran the Lebanese poet teaches us that:
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
Life hands us hardship so we can experience joy ever more greatly. When you think you have been given more to bear than it seems possible. Take a look around you and you are bound to see others in as poor or worse shape. Then think about whether they “deserve” it. Finally realize that life does not drop on us more than we can handle. We always can find a way through the pain, the misery, the challenges. And when you do, take what you have learned and help another.
Try to use your experience to be the hand that reaches out in the darkness and murk and pulls another to safety. This can be as easy as a smile or as difficult as trying to find a way to spread a message. I don’t believe I have touched many people with my current work. But I try each day to help others. The worse I feel and the heavier the weight of pain, the harder I try to smile, to give some hope to anyone: the grocery clerk, a friend, a coworker, a person I pass on the street. When faced with having to watch someone we love in pain we can offer anything that will help. Being present and supportive is often what is needed most and what you can do.
And so one of the tenets of Jar The Ground philosophy is to take your pain and hardship and turn it in to strength, a tool for growth and good. In order to do that you must be willing to let go of the notion that these “bad” things and the pain are here to hurt you. Once you start to accomplish this your hope increases and you feel you can and will conquer your hardships. And in the process you make your life and the world a little bit better.