I was recently given the great privilege of hearing some personal stories from a group of people I had only just met. They opened up and told stories of joy and lightness but also stories of sorrow and suffering.
I was touched by their stories. I immediately felt the urge to do something about whatever it was that had made them sad, to right all that was wrong. I was compelled to act, as many are when we are so touched. In that moment, I wanted to rid to world of suffering once and for all.
But then I stopped to ask myself, “What would a world without suffering look like? Would it necessarily be better?” I’m not sure I know. How can there be joy if there is no sadness? Hope if there is no despair? It’s as if it all goes hand in hand to make up that which is essential to the human experience.
When we are faced with hardship, life demands a lot from us. This demand is often debilitating, but it is also an opportunity to grow our ability to show good will, to love, and to trust. We grow stronger from whatever life throws our way. It’s as if we were built to struggle so that we may become better, stronger, wiser.
There is a great deal of suffering in the world that should never happen, great injustices that must be righted. And there are good people fighting those struggles in deep and meaningful ways. But, on balance, I think we can learn a lot from suffering, from empathically sharing it with others, and from growing from a place of hurt to a place of strength.
The people who shared their stories with me are living testaments to this. Their words will inspire me forever more.