March 13, 2012

Share, Don’t Prevent, Another’s Suffering.

Photo: religious intelligence


Let me clarify at the beginning that by “suffering” in this post I mean emotional suffering, not physical suffering.

It’s an important distinction here, since I believe the roots of emotional suffering are different than the roots of physical suffering.  With that in mind, allow me to continue.

The question is not whether or not you will “stand by me,” but whether or not I will stand by you. I can’t be concerned with your actions, regardless of what my ego says I’d like to have happen. What I can do, however, is understand my own truth and simply live up to it.

I say “simply” but certainly understand there usually is nothing “simple” about it. In the battle between ego and awareness our minds often cater to the lowest common denominator. While it is true we must be at our most aware during these moments, it also seems true that we also must have the very human experience of catering to that low point. We must suffer, it seems, to have the human experience to its fullest even as we strive to attain a place where no suffering appears.

The question I am asking is whether or not I should I cry with those suffering, hold them, yell with them, fight alongside them, or should I seek the end of those experiences?

What is wrong with those experiences anyway? What’s wrong with having a good breakdown when your relationship fails?  What is wrong with crumbling to the floor when what is doesn’t jive with what you want to be? What is wrong with being human? Why do we hate who we are so much as to always be seeking that which we are not?

More importantly, to this thought anyway, why do I feel the need to make someone who is sad smile? Why do I have to say to them (abstractly of course) “you are suffering, that is wrong, and I will help you change it?” Why can’t I simply hold their hand and share in the experience as if it is absolutely perfect in the moment?

Sadness doesn’t make a person who is beautiful suddenly ugly. Not to me anyway. In fact, it  highlights their beauty to me. Their suffering doesn’t make them suddenly unappealing to me, if fact it is a common thing we have as human beings. What the suffering of someone we care about does is fundamentally scare us. We want to end their suffering because we want someone to magically end our own. We want to make them smile when they are sad because we want an end to our sadness. Our actions have as much to do with our own needs as it does with those who we care about.

I’d suggest not trying to end suffering.  Don’t comfort to end sadness, comfort to share it.  Don’t crack a joke to make someone crying suddenly burst out in laughter, just sit and cry with them.  Don’t hold them to say “it’s alright, it will be over soon,” but rather hold them as if to say “I am here with you, in this moment right here and right now, and we will walk through this together.”

If that provides comfort, so be it. In this way, the one suffering is doing the comforting, and you are simply sharing in the process.  Don’t interfere with the process, simply share in it. Imagine how close two people sharing in sadness become in that shared experience? When you walk through the fires of hell with someone isn’t that something more beneficial than preventing the walk in the first place? I’d believe so.


Editor: Kate Bartolotta.

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