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Must We Suffer?

red-leaf-178027_640“Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.” – Buddhist proverb

The New York Times published an opinion piece on Sunday called “The Value of Suffering.” The author, Pico Iyer, takes us through thoughts and beliefs about suffering, closing the piece with this thought:

“The only thing worse than assuming you could get the better of suffering, I began to think (though I’m no Buddhist), is imagining you could do nothing in its wake. …You could be strong enough to witness suffering, and yet human enough not to pretend to be master of it. Sometimes it’s those things we least understand that deserve our deepest trust. Isn’t that what love and wonder tell us, too?”

In essence, our suffering serves a purpose if we let it.

Of course, the readers’ comments after the article provide another perspective. Most wrote that they had suffered and so wish they hadn’t. Suffering made their lives worse, not better.

I wonder what you think about suffering. You and your caree both suffer. As both a witness and a participant to suffering, how do you view it?

Please share your perspectives in our comments section, below.

About Denise

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I began working with family caregivers in 1990 and launched in 1996 to help and support them. Through my blog, I share words of comfort and offer coping strategies and tips. I also write opinion pieces about recent research, community programs and media coverage of caregiving issues. I've written several caregiving books, including "The Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey," "Take Comfort, Reflections of Hope for Caregivers" and "After Caregiving Ends, A Guide to Beginning Again." You can purchase my books and schedule a coaching call with me in our store.

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  1. I think suffering takes on a lot of meaning here. I have watched my mother suffer from pain, I suffer with her as I search for relief for her. I do believe The Lord has a plan and the path we are traveling is part of that plan. Maybe it’s simply to show others how Faith has carried us through, I don’t know…..I may never know.

  2. Thank you for asking this difficult question. Coming from an immigrant Japanese family, the NY Times article painted an accurate portrayal of the way my parents often reacted to tragedies. I believe there are many types of sufferings, and many seem so unfair and uncalled for. When my father suffered through stroke and dementia, my heart seared with pain. Regarding the meaning of suffering, when I was younger, I had a fairly easy life and was spoiled. However, I suffered from a lack of compassion for others. Therefore, suffering through caregiving became sustenance for my growth and the motivation to become a better person.


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