▼Understanding 'The Human Condition' (Part I)▼
Tired yet? Ready to quit. Beaten down by the burden of being human; being single?
a single mother or father, maybe? Born poor or underprivileged? Caught in a maze
of despondency and a domino of failure? Everybody around you seems to be doing
okay financially? Married with children (on the way)? Plenty of room for in-laws
however obnoxious? Frequent vacations? I have Chinese friends who saw their
parents and relatives just this past Spring Festival. Deeply unhappy because,
well, not only would they answer yes to all or most of the above, but also, at
some point, they bought into the myth that they're old; they're a failure if
by a certain age, they've not acquired certain material possessions. And
I tried. Have tried over the years to tell a lot of these people including
fretful White friends with children and big apartments, steady jobs,
vacations, great family safety net, etc. just how good they have it.
But as we learned in Breakthrough Ideas April 2013, many of
such people don't want to be fixed. I'll never forget the young
African man I met at a Public Security Bureau trying after
several years of living illegally in China, to negotiate his
way out of a huge debt. Approximately a million or so
Yuan Renminbi. Just so he could finally leave China
and spend time with his aging parents. Some of
us are grateful we don't have that problem. I
last saw my Dad in 1999, and the hardest
thing is always being told by everyone
how he repeats every now & again:
“I want to see TT before I die.”
Social Media façade that says
Act tough, airbrush/edit
your pain and pretend
all is beautiful and
well; Courage is
Go tell it
like it is
Pain is the price we pay for being alive...When we understand that, our question will change from, "Why do we have to feel pain?" to "What do we do with our pain so that it becomes meaningful and not just pointless empty suffering?".
We may not ever understand why we suffer or be able to control the forces that cause our suffering, but can have a lot to say about what the suffering does to us, and what sort of people we become because of it.
Pain makes some people bitter and envious. It makes others sensitive and compassionate. It is the result, not the cause, of pain that makes some experiences of pain meaningful and others destructive.
The textbook definition of depression is anger turned inward instead of being discharged outward. I suspect we have all known people who became depressed after a death, a divorce, a rejection or loss of job. They stayed home, slept till noon, neglected their appearance, and spurned all efforts at friendship. This is depression, our anger at being hurt turned inward onto ourselves.
What do we do with our anger when we have been hurt? The goal, if we can achieve it, would be to be angry at the situation, rather than at ourselves, or at those who might have prevented it or are close to us to help us, or at God who let it happen.
Getting angry at ourselves makes us depressed. Being angry at other people scares them away and makes it harder for them to help us. Being angry at God erects a barrier between us and all the sustaining, comforting resources of religion that are there to help us at such times.
Being angry at the situation, recognizing it as something rotten, unfair, and totally undeserved, shouting about it, denouncing it, crying over it, permits us to discharge the anger whis is a part of being hurt, without making it harder for us to be helped.
Jealousy [invidia] is almost as inevitable a part of being hurt by life as a guilt and anger. How can an injured person not feel jealous of people who may not deserve better, but have received better? How can the widow not be jealous of even her closest friends who still have a husband to go home to? How should the woman whose doctor has told her she will never be able to bear children react when her sister-in-law confides to her that something may have gone wrong and she may be pregnant a fourth time?
It serves no purpose to try to moralize and try to moralize against jealously and talk people out of it. Jealousy is too strong a feeling. It touches us too deeply, hurting us in places we care about. Some psychologists trace the origins
of jealousy to sibling rivalry. As children, we compete with our brothers and sisters for our parents' limited love and attention. It is so important to us, not only to be treated well, but to be treated better than others.
Did you know that the first mention of "sin" in the Bible is not in connection with Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit, but relates to Cain killing his brother Abel in a fit of jealousy, because God preferred Abel's offerings to his
For us to suffer an accident or bereavement is bad enough. But for us to suffer it while those around us don't, is even worse, because that awakens all the old childhood competitiveness in us, and seems to proclaim to all that God loves them more than He loves us.
No one comes to us from a home which has never known sorrow. They come to help us because they too know what it feels like to be hurt by life.
The afflicted person is not looking to join the Suffering Olympics. But it would help if we remembered this: Anguish and heartbreak may not be distributed evenly throughout the world, but they are distributed very widely. If we knew the facts, we would very rarely find someone whose life was to be envied.
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