People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar. ~ Thích Nhất Hạnh, Buddhist monk, teacher, author and poet now based in France.
A buddy of mine (thanks, Don) posted this quotation as his status on Facebook yesterday, and I have to say that I love it. There have been times that I chose to hold on to my own suffering because I found comfort in the familiar, even when the familiar created excruciating pain for me.
This last Easter, I broke a nearly 20 year cycle of suffering. Many years ago when I served as a crisis counselor, I made a judgment that returned two three-year old twins to home for an overnight visit with their father for the Easter holiday. The father got drunk that night, so drunk that he didn’t provide adequate supervision. One of his children fell out of an upstairs window to his death.
I blamed myself. For nearly 20 years, I held on to the believe that I had caused the death of that small boy. And like clockwork, I would slip into a dark place of grief each year as Easter approached.
My actions came out of habit. I used the anniversary of that child’s death as a time to bring into my recall all of the parents who harmed the kids I tried to save. And I drove myself crazy.
This last year, I finally confronted it and saw it for what it was: a macabre celebration of suffering.
Be honest: do you hold on to anger or grief or another form of suffering because you’ve made holding on to your suffering a habit?
Another friend (thanks, Chris) shared this timely quote:
If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally. ~ Eckhart Tolle
If you find yourself suffering, you aren’t powerless. Get away from it, convert it into something less destructive, or embrace it. You can break the cycle if you are willing.
So how about it? Got something you’re ready to let go of today?
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What do you mean embrace it? Example please.
Let me answer that two ways. First, sometimes we do things that we dislike in order to serve another. In the Bible, Paul wrote to Timothy that we are called to
“Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” Outside of people doing things for spiritual reasons, think about what parents do all of the time: sacrifice for their children. My dad ate a very inexpensive lunch each day and wore worn clothes to work while my mom worked long hours to send me to a good school. Some might call those sacrifices “suffering”; most of the time, parents see those actions as investments. If you view your gifts as suffering, you will suffer. Embracing “suffering” means keeping the spirit right.
Second, sometimes we do things we dislike because they are good for us. Who likes eating right and exercising? I don’t. But once I’ve done it regularly long enough, I feel great. When I quite smoking, I didn’t do it because I was looking forward to becoming evil incarnate and losing my “best friend.” I did it because I wanted to set a good example for my children (see point 1) AND I wanted to improve my overall health (see point 2).