suffering holds the key to happiness

suffering holds the key to happiness
Photo by Tommy Fogelberg / Unsplash
“The more time you spend thinking about yourself, the more suffering you will experience.” ― Dalai Lama XIV, The Book of Joy

Suffering is inevitable and a constant occurrence in our human lives. Whether it be waking up early to go to your day job, tackling countless bills that come your way, or making personal sacrifices for your family, suffering is the name of the game. However, despite its downsides, suffering is key to living a happy and fulfilling life.

Pain and suffering can actually be constructive and bring numerous benefits with them. It’s best to look at the big picture and perceive suffering as a means to enjoy positive experiences in life. For instance, every mother is aware of how excruciatingly painful giving birth to a child can be. Yet, they go ahead and accept the pain as necessary so that they can later experience the boundless joy that a new baby brings and embark on the fulfilling journey of motherhood.

Another great example to consider in this regard is Nelson Mandela. He spent 27 years in prison and went through tremendous suffering during this period. During his incarceration in Robben Island, the cell that he was given was terribly small. There was no bed and only a small wooden table where he would have to kneel to write in his journal since there was no chair. He slept on a concrete floor and his every moment was occupied with mindless manual labor such as breaking rocks.

He didn’t get privacy even while taking a shower; the guards stood there and tried to humiliate him. The food that he was given was unhealthy by all standards. The letters that came from his family were either not delivered or badly censored. All these attempts were made to crush Mandela’s spirit. But he used this mistreatment as fuel to cultivate inner strength and advance his soul.

All the suffering that Mandela went through helped him cultivate kindness, empathy, and compassion for his political adversaries. And it was these qualities that played a significant role in helping Mandela become the first democratically elected president of a free South Africa.

The key thing to remember is that suffering is an integral part of both life and happiness. However, in order to endure it with an open heart and mind and make it worthwhile, it’s crucial that we experience it in a certain way — the one that demands cultivating virtues like selflessness, kindness, love, and compassion, and contributes to a lasting positive change in the future. When we shift our perspective away from ourselves and towards others, our suffering gets a whole new meaning.

“If you are setting out to be joyful you are not going to end up being joyful. You’re going to find yourself turned in on yourself. It’s like a flower. You open, you blossom, really because of other people. And I think some suffering, maybe even intense suffering, is a necessary ingredient for life, certainly for developing compassion.” ― Desmond Tutu, The Book of Joy