We all have our own story to tell of suffering. We are 7.4+ billion people who share this planet. There is a lot of suffering around us. Yet, I still believe there is reason to be hopeful, and mainly because of our humanity, not in spite of it.
There is nothing inherently good or right about human suffering despite the claim that ‘whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ There is no virtue in suffering. There is only virtue in putting an end to suffering. Is there any virtue in the belief that suffering is just a fact of life? That seems a simple justification to such a profound experience; and, in a way, it dehumanizes us. We are constantly being inundated with images and messages of suffering with no apparent solution in sight. To me, suffering is espoused as a fact of life because we have not yet managed to collectively come together to ease suffering. We have overly complicated the issue. The solution is already known. We have forgotten who we are.
The qualities that make us human – our ability to love, to care, to be kind and compassionate – are virtuous. Virtue is synonymous with goodness. Goodness is a part of our humanity even when it is not always apparent. The word humanity actually means human nature or kindness. This means that kindness is our true nature.
How do we collectively restore our humanity so that we can ease each other’s suffering? We all know that not everyone has a way to ease their own suffering; not everyone caused their own suffering; and, not everyone came into this world without suffering. Is it right to compare the plight of one with another? It doesn’t add up. It never will. No explanation, theory, belief, or doctrine will ever explain away the suffering that we endure in this life. There are so many things that can cause suffering, and oftentimes without our control, consent, or even comprehension. Suffering is not the result of an inherent individual weakness, but rather the result of many contributing factors. There will always be some who suffer more than others and there will always be some who suffer less. The only remedy to ease that disparity and to ease everyone’s suffering is through our own humanity.
Why else would compassion be our shared humanity? It is what binds us together as human beings. We have the capacity to offer compassion to those who need it on our journey through life. Compassion need not be delegated. Every day, each one of us is given the opportunity to choose to be compassionate or to choose to ignore our heart’s response to the suffering of others. Those are the choices. Whether you respond with compassion or not, you will still be affected by suffering. It’s all around us. There are those would have you believe that you can become non-attached to your experiences in order to avoid or to overcome suffering. By this they mean that you can look upon the suffering in the world and not have an emotional response. We cannot overcome our humanness, nor should that be a hoped-for outcome. In order to have compassion for yourself or for others, you need to have an emotional response. Compassion does not come from the mind, it comes from the heart. You feel compassion. If it isn’t felt, it remains this intellectual concept that can never be realized.
Collectively, we have the ability to create a world where suffering is no longer tolerated. Suffering isn’t something to be hailed as a test of wills that only a few can overcome. That is just a belief that has seen its day. Imagine if every decision and action each one of us made was rooted in our own humanity. We might actually put an end to suffering, and everyone, including ourselves, would feel better as a result. Kindness is our true nature. We simply have forgotten who we are.
Copyright © 2017. Sylvia Carlson. All Rights Reserved.
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