The Upside to the Downside

It’s a common and understandable question.  Why do we suffer?

I asked that question when I was overwhelmed by the depression of the person in my household.  It wasn’t his/her fault that s/he came went through difficult and tragic experiences as a child.  And my empathic senses were flooded with his/her pain.  It felt hellish and hopeless, and it wasn’t even my problem.

But there is a silver lining.  The exposure gave me new insights and spurred me to grow.  Now I am more equipped and can stay calmer during traumatic events.  I have a better understanding and stronger compassion for those whose mental structure has gotten compromised or collapsed.

Similarly, I used to wonder why I’m so mistake-prone.  I forget things, do things wrong, say inappropriate things, embarrass myself and my family.  Boneheaded mistakes are so common.

But I realized that my own faults make me more compassionate, more forgiving toward others who also make mistakes.  When someone around me makes a mistake, I am quick to forgive and alleviate the pain.  My faults humble me and keep me grounded.

Our hardships are the best trainers that prepare us for helping others with similar plights.  If you are struggling with depression, someday you’ll be able to help someone else who does.  You’ve been there.  S/he is not alone.  Humans are social animals.  Our challenges draw us closer and encourage us to bind together.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in suffering for suffering’s sake.  It isn’t something we have to seek out or stay stuck with.  And I also get that some experiences seem too harsh, too severe, too unjust to just neatly wrap up with the bow of silver lining. But if and when it comes, I am learning to accept it.  It hurts but I do so without resenting “I shouldn’t have to feel this way.”  It’s another opportunity to learn what it’s like to be in that place.  The longer and more varied history I have of life’s challenges, the more impactful I can be for someone else.  It is satisfying to know that what I gained through these uncomfortable times, I can then wield as my power to make a difference.  Whether the other person  recognizes and/or appreciates that difference is a different matter.  But I recognize it.  I recognize that my power is growing, the longer I live, and more challenges I experience.