“It is because mankind are disposed to sympathize more entirely with our joy than with our sorrow, that we make parade of our riches, and conceal our poverty. Nothing is so mortifying as to be obliged to expose our distress to the view of the public, and to feel, that though our situation is open to the eyes of all mankind, no mortal conceives for us the half of what we suffer.” ~ Adam Smith
We don’t necessarily like to advertise our suffering. We mainly see the best moments and highlight reels of people’s lives, while many of the deeper and lonelier moments are kept concealed.
The truth is, we all suffer, at the deepest levels. Every single one of us. No one is immune to bad days. We all have them.
We go about our lives, pretending to have it all together — and on some days, it may even feel like we actually do.
We may at times fall under an illusion that we are in control.
We know this deep down, as we become reminded of this hard truth at times in our lives — the times when reality comes crashing down upon you — feeling alone, and we cry…if we allow ourselves to. We want to be strong for our loved ones, our spouses, our kids, driven by the fear of appearing weak when in fact, showing our humanity is not weakness.
I’ve spoken to many people whose pain and suffering happens to rise to the surface…unexpected, and in that moment, their loneliness revealed, despondency expressed — weeping about how alone and scared they really feel…at the deepest levels — the depths in which we rarely ever let anyone in far enough to see.
We are like onions, having many layers that can be peeled back. Many of us only ever get to see the top layer in most of our relationships. There are many more layers to a person. We all have them.
We often do not have a safe space where we can reveal them.
“If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.” ~ Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
When we accept this fact — that life is a whole lot of suffering — we can be free to embrace our whole humanity. It’s quite liberating, actually. Our hearts suffering so much that they may become broken open, so we can better love and appreciate everything around us. The alternative is our hearts hardening — numbing out the suffering, blocking out bad experiences and only allowing ourselves to feel a sliver of what life has to offer.
As a counselor, I’ve had my share of suicide assessments, whether they are students, teachers, friends, or members of my family. I’ve been exposed to some of people’s most intimate experiences of their deepest pain and suffering. Some of my closest family members have had suicidal ideations, some attempting, and some following through with it. I know many people can say the same.
You’ll never really know what someone is going through until you break the silence, ask a question, and listen to their story.
Be and provide a safe space for people to be able to share their pain and suffering. How’s your heart doing? How’s your life? How are you?
“Embrace your suffering, and let it reveal to you the way to peace.” ~ Thich Nhat Hahn