First, let’s be clear: suffering sucks. Small suffering like discomfort and frustration, and big suffering like pain and loss. No fun.

And yet, there is value to be found in suffering.

Suffering shows us where our boundaries are, teaches us to bear difficulties and enables us to develop new insights and skills.

Which is why it is important that we give ourselves the opportunity to suffer. And why it is equally important that we give others the same privilege.

That is harder than it sounds. Some people avoid their own suffering by avoiding potentially painful situations or by dulling the pain with, say, drugs and distractions.

And parents, for example, find it hard to see their children suffer and will instinctively try to take their pain away. Hush little baby, don’t cry.

Balanced suffering

Of course, there are those who overdo the suffering. They wallow in it, because the drama of it makes them feel special or alive.

Or they take a reckless attitude, in which they do not allow themselves or others to complain and accept their limitations. Chin up, bear the pain!

The solution lies in nature’s answer to everything: balance. Suffering is valuable only when it is bearable in intensity and duration.

So it is okay to challenge yourself and get some bumps and bruises, as long as you’re mindful of your how much you can handle.

If the suffering is too much, help or ask for help. And if you are avoiding it, get out of your comfort zone and discover you can bear more than you think.

Happy suffering!

Ilja van Roon.

P.S. Suffering is also a key ingredient of the Hero’s Journey, check it out.