Discussion: Is Suffering Actually “Bad” For Us?


Why is the offensive so offensive these days? Why are we so afraid to hurt each other? What’s wrong with kicking the life out of someone, metaphorically and even perhaps physically? Why do we prize happiness over pain? The safe over the dangerous? Where is the adventure or glory in this comfort?

In high school, I was walking home in a safe neighborhood and three guys pulled up in a car and started yelling at me. The dudes were tweaking and I kept walking, trying to ignore them. But they continued to harass me from the car window until they got out of the car and beat me senseless. I thought I was going die. After recovery — two days in the hospital and weeks of psychological and physical readjustment — I was invigorated with a new energy and fortitude. I was a new person.

It wasn’t that I wanted revenge. I didn’t care. I didn’t know my attackers. It was just that getting pummeled activated something inside of me.  It flipped an interntal switch that made me wanted to be more vital.

Another crucial but cliché moment of harm: heartbreak. When my partner broke up with me, my world fell apart, and my life become a depressive string of months. In time, the pain turned into to self-improvement: I realized I wasn’t good enough enough for this person and that I needed to better myself. And that’s what I did. The harm was fuel for change.

Think about the movers in the world, the empire builders. Jonathan Davis, the headman of the band Korn, was raped as a child and he has used this experience to create some freakish and moving music. Would Davis have been able to produce such exotic and dramatic music without that experience? Or what if Eminem, 50 Cent, Nicki Minaj, or Lady Gaga had happy childhoods? Would they have been able to make such powerful sounds and influential empires? People tend to even like Obama over Romney because Obama seemed to fight to get where he is — it was a journey of struggle and pain.

Think about your life. Think about the things that left a lasting mark on your character. Has the pain really damaged you? Or has what hurt turned you into the person you are today? Is suffering actually harmful or is it the source of power?

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image – Fight Club