On Suffering

Humans suffer a lot.

We often put ourselves through more suffering than anyone outside is telling us to do right now.

Yogis do tapasya.
Christians often do self-mortification.
Shiites cut themselves with razors during Ashura.
Many lost souls chose to die on the circular saw at Kashi in hopes of attaining spiritual merit.
Some say Jesus accepted his crucifixion.

Souls love-sick unto madness and desperation have in the past chosen suicide. If you feel this way, call me. Call someone. There are people that care about you.

Anita chose suicide. I know what she felt.

I wish I could tell her some things. When I read this back to myself, I don't know if it's me writing to Anita, or Anita from heaven writing to me.

What is this suffering that we do?

We are ourselves the ultimate judges of our own loveableness and worth: it is we who must be persuaded. But as confused souls, we may not know we have the precious spark of the Beloved inside us, we may not perceive that, though we may hope to; we may see things that seem to tell us that we are unloveable or unworthy; we may feel disappointment. We may not be persuaded: Am I loveable and precious? It can be pretty hard to see that sometimes.

But I think all of us want to be loveable and valuable. We all want peace of mind and a sense of wholeness and goodness.

So that makes us try to persuade ourselves that we are worth something. Sometimes we go through exercises that we think might help us persuade ourselves. Exercises of suffering, of experiencing punishment or exercising discipline. If I give up something then I can have something else. If I discipline myself then maybe I'll allow myself to believe I have strength and value. If I punish myself then maybe I'll believe I've paid for my sins and I can accept myself again. If I hurt myself then maybe I'll think others won't want to hurt me.

Small disciplines, small self-abnegations, and apologies, these can be a good thing. In a life where slovenly habits can lead to downward spirals in our lives, discipline and self-sacrifice are really helpful in keeping us healthy, functional, and happy.

But major events of self-discipline and self-punishment are not a good thing. Think about it.

What you want and need is to persuade yourself you're okay.

Is adding heavier weights onto the punishment/suffering scale the only way to persuade yourself? Think about it: how heavy would that weight have to be before you would really relent? Do you realize how hard you might be pushing down on the other side of the scale?

You might have been raised by people that weren't all that loving. You might have been betrayed, even many times. You might have hurt people yourself, even if you didn't mean to. You might feel vengeful against yourself thinking that it's all your fault that something didn't work out. As a child, events might have persuaded you that you are not acceptable or loveable or even safe. You might have had people push you away when you reached out to them. I know what that's like.

These things can make it pretty hard to accept any finite amount of suffering as being enough to tip the balance back to forgiveness. But that's only because the mind is stuck on this one single tradeoff: How much do I have to suffer before relenting, before I will forgive myself.

What I'm saying is try to forgive yourself now. Don't even think about a trade between suffering and forgiveness, what I'm saying is that that tradeoff is really, really wrong, because the weight on the other side of the scale might be very heavy, and you may be pushing on the other side yourself with all your might. Instead please just forgive yourself now. Remember who you really are, the tender-hearted, up-standing, loving, feeling human being that you really are, and that you would be seen to be among others if people did see you as you really are. Count yourself as valuable and precious now.

Please, can you try to just simply think about it, think about some other ways in which you might have some value, some other friends that might actually care about you, be willing to listen to you, be there for you, some good things that you've done in this life, some happy experiences you've had that you could potentially have again in the future. Life is rich and complicated, there are a lot of ways to be valuable. There are a lot of things that you can trade for forgiveness.

Why be so hard on yourself that you have to hurt yourself or think about killing yourself? If you don't feel that way then just take my word for it, you are worth something. And don't hurt someone that is worth something: don't hurt yourself. Don't. So someone else doesn't love you, that's about them, not about you, they aren't your friend, they've got their own problems and they are NOT your friend.

If you want to make yourself suffer more, what I'm saying is, what you really want, the real point, is simply persuading yourself you're worth something, and I say instead of suffering more just try to think about it. Think about it. There are a lot of ways to get persuaded, and suffering is not the only one, and in fact it's not very persuasive; you could potentially make yourself suffer a LOT before you become willing to relent. So I say just think about it and find some other way to persuade yourself.

Because each of us has the spark of the Beloved inside us.

And even disappointment is just one of the forms of Hope.

Thomas Veatch
4/7/04