What should we do with our suffering?

In today’s world, talking about our suffering and pain is mightily encouraged, and keeping things which cause us anguish to ourselves is discouraged and seen as wrong-nobody should have to suffer alone. Of course, there are different scales of suffering, from petty everyday troubles to genuine hardship through poverty, disease, and mental illness. There is no doubt that talking can help, since it allows us to know that we are not alone, and it gives our sufferings an objective viewpoint. Nevertheless, should we always be talking about our hardships and pains of life?

Soren Kierkegaard wrote about the lily in the field and the bird in the sky, saying that even though they suffered, they suffered silently. One should not take this completely literally-obviously the lily is silent! Yet his point is that we, as humans, are not able to remain silent in our suffering. It may be that our troubles always seem so much worse than they actually are is because of our inability to remain silent. Kierkegaard wrote that ‘to suffer is to suffer, no more and no less.’ Perhaps what Kierkegaard may be implicitly calling us to do is to accept our suffering, rather than always trying to talk about it and make a fuss about it which may, ultimately, be a way of fleeing from it. Not all suffering should be accepted, yet not all of it should be extinguished. Life is full of trials and tribulations, and at times the best thing may be to speak to someone, to call out to them for help, but at others, it may be best if we do not speak, but remain silent, and calm, and to use the suffering for something rather than talk about it. Much of the great art we have today may be thanks to suffering. Suffering inspires and motivates. We do not always have to talk about our pains, but rather we can create something-a book, a song, a poem, or a drawing, and through this act of creation, we may discover that not only does it help ourselves, but it has the power to help others also.

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