Happiness and Suffering


For about the last 3 weeks (maybe a month?) Craig and I have not been watching T.V. together. (Fear not I am still watching Friends while I fold laundry and my children play outside).  Most nights, instead of staring at a screen we have been cozied up on the couch, mugs of tea in hand, talking about what we learned that day.  Like real, deep, meaningful, conversation.  The kind of conversation where you admit vulnerable feelings about serious thoughts and all that good stuff.

This past week Craig brought up a point that made us particularly chatty.  He said that he is trying to view others through the lens that we all want to be happy and avoid suffering.  This makes it easier to have good will toward your fellow man.

These are probably some pretty wise words since the Dalai Lama was tweeting them at 2:30 am back in June.

Dalai Lama

I pondered this.  Do I actually want to be happy and is the ticket to happiness avoiding suffering?

I would agree with the fact that we all want to avoid suffering, but argue the fact that since suffering is unavoidable, sometimes in the midst of it we do not want to be happy.  In the darkness of fresh, soul howling grief we just want to lean in to the pain and feel all of the hurt.

We want to get to know it so well that it burns an imprint on our heart.  In fact I would go so far to say that our future happiness depends on us laboring through suffering once in a while.  It’s what strengthens us and allows us to pull others close who will rub our backs and tell us to breath.

Suffering allows us new birth and builds strength.

Think about push ups or better yet burpees.  I have not met a single person who loves burpees.  Yet some of us choose to suffer through them to get the results on the other side.  Strength.


Please don’t think that I am suggesting that you go out and find some way to make yourself miserable so you can wallow through unnecessary crap.  I’m not.  But when troubles come your way and you find yourself in the pit of despair, despairing just might be the best thing you can do.  At least for a little while.

On the same note when you are standing on a mountain top (you probably did some suffering to get there, unless you rented a helicopter) take in all of that warmth and light that you are basking in.  Remember the feelings that you have in the high moments of life so you can remind yourself of them when you are in the lows.  So that you can have peace.

Jesus (while He doesn’t have an authentic Twitter account) had some wise words on the topic as well.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Or maybe chose the philosophy of Bobby McFarrin “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

I am choosing to adopt the view that we have all suffered and are worthy of love, peace and comfort.  Is that the same thing with a pessimistic twist?  I don’t know.  But it triggers compassion and kindness in me and that is my goal.

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  • twyla says:

    I love mountain top analogies. (Sarah, ask me sometime about my mountain-top pot-thoughts.) We have to have suffering to appreciate the non-suffering moments. If we perpetually live on the mountaintops, we would starve. There’s not much vegetation, very little water, and, realistically, how many other top-dwellers are there?
    I love to be happy, but without a plumb line, how would we define happiness?

  • craig says:

    ..to carry on with the Dalai Lama’s thoughts, he makes an important distinction between pain and suffering.

    “pain is inevitable,suffering is optional…
    we have bigger houses,but smaller families. More conveniences,but less time. We have knowledge,but less judgements; more experts,but more problems ; more medicines but less health.”

    ― Dalai Lama XIV

  • Krina Ulmer says:

    I completely agree – sorrow and joy are very much connected for me, I have known the one which makes the other all the sweeter. I like Craig’s perspective – it draws out what might motivate people to do what they are doing in a moment, while remembering we are all worth loving can help us to not want to throttle them despite their motives. (Myself included) 🙂

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