Today’s world is filled with more chaos, corruption, hate, anger and pain than ever before. Our country is the furthest thing from one nation under God as we speak, which is what prompted this blog. I think that it all starts from a mindset for all of us- “Pain is Inevitable but Suffering is Optional.” What does this statement truly mean to us? I think we can all agree that no human being is immune to adversity, struggles and pain in our lives. All of us have had to endure pains in our life and will continue to do so until the day we die. Some of these pains are great and some are simple like they lost my luggage at the airport. The pains in our lives do not make sense at the time to us when we encounter them. We are not able to see the big picture at the time of our pain. It is like a puzzle, when a puzzle is completely assembled it is a beautiful picture and image. However if we look at each individual piece it makes no sense and we do not understand how it fits into the big picture. That piece does have a perfect place in that puzzle and when it comes together with the other pieces it makes perfect sense. Pain does not always make sense at the time and that is okay. The important factor is recognizing that this pain is temporary and will not last forever if we choose the route that pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. Suffering takes us hostage and robs us of our joy, dignity, peace, focus, thoughts and direction. Suffering is optional!
Pain changes us whether we want it to or not. How the pain changes us is up to us! Pain will either make you better or bitter and the choice is solely yours. A few examples are divorce, bankruptcy, death, drug addiction,cancer, critical illness - your life will be forever changed- it will not stay the same. The challenge is not to go through it but grow through it. Anyone can give up, play the victim, or simply allow it to define the rest of your decisions and life. However, pain is not intended to stop us. Pain is intended to promote self – growth, to propel us forward and make us better. All great sports accomplishments are fueled by disappointments, pains and failures. The pain will either force the athlete to shut down or drive the athlete towards greatness. There is a lesson in the failure and pain. Outcomes that did not go our way can overwhelm us if we allow it. In a previous blog I wrote about the 4 Agreements and one of them is to never take things personally. If we can do this suffering will not exist in our lives. Suffering is optional!
Every pain we endure happens for a reason. Most of them we do not understand why at the time. Personal pain and tough times are an awakening to make us better than we are or have been. I have defined competing as doing your absolute best each time you do something. In a sports analogy you are seeking for a new PR in each moment and day of your life. We are not created not to have struggle. Without struggle there is no progress. Suffering is optional!
The reason our society is a hot mess lies in this following statement: There is a lesson in every pain and we will either grow from it or we continue to allow the pain to cripple us mentally, socially, emotionally, and spiritually. Pain is temporary suffering consumes us! Three things must happen when make a mistake or suffer an injustice 1- Admit/Recognize it 2- Learn from it and 3- Never repeat it. Sometimes we bring pain to ourselves and sometimes we do nothing wrong and pain comes to us via other people or things out of our control like cancer. Two questions we have examine 1- Are we bringing pain to ourselves? If yes what do we need to change? And 2- How will this pain propel me to a new me and put me a better place? Focus on how the pain can promote you. Remember suffering is optional!
I truly believe we carry crosses in our own lives for a distinct specific reason. Each cross we carry in our own lives makes us uniquely qualified to help lead others who will suffer the exact type of crosses we have carried. The choice is simple we can use our past pains to relate and connect with others who are going through similar situation and inspire, propel and promote those people past and through the pain. We instantly become role models and examples of hope for others because we are examples that you can come out of this pain better. This again is a choice, are we going to come out of this better or bitter? So many people take to social media to vent bitterness and this is contagious. We are creating a society of victims. How can we be victims when all humans agree that pain if inevitable? Suffering is optional!
Pain does not discriminate in that we all go through it at some point. It may appear certain people get all the breaks and their life and it is not fair they don’t do things the right way. They appear to have this wonderful life even when they are hurting others. However, I assure at some point they will endure personal pain. I will share two distinctly different yet similar examples. One is a drug dealer. On the surface level they appear wealthy, popular and life is grand. You may get up every day work hard and struggle to make ends meet. In your mind you struggle that is not fair so I will ask you this question- Have you ever seen a drug dealer’s retirement party? The answer is always no! They either go to jail or end up dead. The second one is the corrupt politician who is living this luxurious and famous lifestyle and making policies that greatly impact your life yet have never once walked a day in your shoes. This enrages all of us but I can assure you that at some point it all comes to a screeching halt. Simply watch the news every night, more so today than ever they are going back 30 years and convicting people. As my grandmother use to say “what you do in the dark comes out in the light.” Suffering is optional!
The key for all of us is not to focus on the others who hurt, gossip betray, lie and steal from us. They are not worth our energy. The pain must remind us that better things are coming our way. For every setback there is a comeback. I recently had the privilege to meet the world’s toughest man David Goggins, and he spoke about how he uses a cookie jar to help him endure pain. He has written every pain and struggle he has endured and placed them in a cookie jar. He then pulls out his cookie jar and reads each of the struggles he has encountered every time he endures a new pain in his life. Why does he do this? To remind him that he is beyond resilient and tough and because of those experiences and they provide fuel and confidence to get him through the current pain. Google David Goggins- you will not be disappointed to hear his story. Our perspective and mindset determine if we suffer as we only suffer if we choose to do so. Suffering is optional!
Use your pain to help you grow in a positive direction not a negative destructive manner. The greatest leader in my opinion is Dr. Martin Luther King who epitomizes taking the pain and injustices he suffered and used his pain to propel himself and millions of others. Carry your crosses of pain knowing that you are going to come out of this a better version of you and that you are uniquely qualified to help others that will go through the same pain. I will leave you with one of my personal sayings” If I help a whole bunch other people succeed and get what they want in the end I will get what I always wanted.”
Superintendent Foxfire Schools