The Art in Suffering

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I’m reading a great book. It’s called The Road to Character by David Brooks.

“The central question of this book is how to not only do good, but be good. How to live a life of depth and meaning over success and achievement. One way to begin the journey is by asking yourself one simple, yet difficult, question, “Am I living for my résumé or my eulogy?”

According to the book, we have two sides to our nature referred to as Adam 1 & Adam 2:

  • Adam 1 – Conquers the world, Savors accomplishments, Success
  • Adam 2 – Hears a calling, obeys the world, does good, loves, redemption and return

Our society apparently favors Adam 1 who can end up treating life like a game and slip into mediocrity. However, we apparently don’t spend enough time with our Adam 2 self to nurture our moral character.

At the end of the day, Adam 1 and Adam 2 produces two different Eulogies. The question we must ask ourselves is what Eulogy do we want heard at the end of our life?

To build character, there is a belief that one must suffer.

In order to find yourself, you must lose yourself. In order to fulfill yourself, you must forget yourself. In suffering, we learn to fight and wrestle with our sins and through this battle, we learn how to manage ourselves.

In essence, suffering cultivates character.

When one suffers, the inertia of that suffering starts to pull you into deeper suffering. The pain, hurt and anguish start to tear you apart. As you sit in your mess and your pain you start to open up. Your walls start to come down, your heart aches for comfort and your vulnerability becomes exposed.

He notes that suffering and pain opens up the lowest point of your soul to reveal a cavity beneath you. As you fall through each cavity and hit the bottom of the trench, your soul awakens feelings you never knew existed. You FEEL pain like you’ve never felt it before.

From this pain, “you [start to ] double-down on your vulnerability” opening yourself to any glimmer of love, comfort and healing. You hope that any ray of light from love makes it through the trenches to reach the hurt that lies below. The faintest light will cure any darkness.

As you sit in the pain and as you look for the light, you find a way to let love in. You hope. You learn about compassion, empathy and patience. You start to build a new moral character and it becomes a part of you forever.

As I process this section of the book, this must refer to the “blessing” that comes when one experiences pain. The blessing that comes from suffering is so rich and deep it is almost incomprehensible.

My friend sent me a link to some quotes the other night and this one seemed apt to summarize the art of suffering on the road to character:

“The harder you slam a ball into the ground, the higher it bounces back up… A breakup, losing a job, or just feeling seriously down can ground you, rough you up a bit, leave calluses on your feet and grit under your finger nails. But more than that, it leaves you wiser and stronger next time… Life is about experiencing opposites isn’t it? — Laurel House”


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