What If You Believed Suffering Is Optional?
Work hard. Struggle. Push through. Use force. Nothing comes easy. You can take it. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. These are ideas that many of hear from the time we’re children throughout adulthood.
And if you’re Black like me you’ve heard:
Make a way out of no way.
God don’t put no more on you than you can bear.
God don’t put no more on your plate than you can chew.
I grew up in a Christian family in a town with a long Civil Rights legacy. Christ suffered on the cross to save humanity. Jobe refused to curse God and die no matter how much the devil tested him. My ancestors struggled so that we could have equal rights.
I still stand in awe of the courage it takes to put your personal well-being on the line for the greater good. It’s an invaluable gift to humanity.
The good thing about this heritage is that it makes me want to reach for things that seem unreachable, to expand my capacity, to explore more of the best in me. It makes me believe in infinite possibilities. I know there’s a way out of any tough situation. I know there’s a road to achieve my goals.
I expect that unexpected, fortuitous events will turn things in my favor. An unlikely meeting in the grocery store or gym or a park bench will be just the connection I need to move forward.
The challenge of this heritage is that I came to think I would have to struggle and suffer for anything of value. Nothing would come easy; and if it did, then it wasn’t worth it. In fact, if I didn’t suffer, I hadn’t worked hard enough. I hadn’t demonstrated myself worthy to receive something good.
You can see how this mindset could end up with me feeling overwhelmed and in a crisis of faith. Or how it could lead to me looking for something to go wrong or waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Guilty. I’ve been in all of these places.
The need for suffering drains physical, mental and emotional energy. It robs our spirit. It can paralyze us.
I speak from experience. I’ve suffered my way into a crisis of faith.
As people with dreams and goals and legacies to build, we can use the slip into suffering as a catalyst. Suffering is a mindset. A shift in thinking can release our stuck energy. But since thoughts and feelings get stuck in our shoulders, neck and other body parts, our bodies need support too.
Here are a few of my favorite strategies:
Listen to your body. Get to know what it feels like when you’ve slipped into suffering mode. Then, stretch, do yoga, breathe, do Qigong, meditate, and/ or chant to release the body tension. Eat good foods. Give your body foods that build and sustain energy.
Change your posture. Sit and stand as you do when you feel your most optimistic and confident.
Write down your thoughts and use them to help you make a shift. If you’re like me and you tend to blame yourself for making error, reframe the situation. Use the thoughts as indicators of resources you need to gather. Create a plan to solve the problems your thoughts are pointing out for you.
Remind yourself that, “Suffering is optional”. You can choose how you want to feel about your experience. You can choose optimism. You can choose faith in yourself.
Trust that everything that happens in your life will work for your good. Look for the blessings and gifts that come from challenging times. They are there waiting for you.
Ask for help. You are not alone. There are people who will help you. Call them. Have lunch, tea, or coffee with them. Get a hug. Believe them when they say, you are perfect and will have everything you need to accomplish your goals.
Choice is one of our most powerful tools. We choose our thoughts and feelings. Choose wisely.
If you need support, contact us. The Living Source is here to help you plug in to the power of you.
© Sandra Y. Lewis