Are you frustrated today? Dealing with some kind of a set-back? Remember, “Nothing beautiful comes without suffering” (Desmond Tutu). Countless stories, like that of Nelson Mandela, remind us that the path to deep joy and generosity of spirit, does not lead away from suffering but through it. While pain and conflict can certainly embitter us, if we don’t lose sight of God’s presence and the hope of redemption, we can find meaning in our suffering and it can ennoble us with greater wisdom and compassion. The most sure sign of this transformation is that we lose the compulsion to retaliate. Instead of returning insult for insult, we develop the capacity to put ourselves in the shoes of others long enough to ask, “What is possessing him to act this way?” While this does not mean that we abandon healthy boundaries and stop exercising wisdom when deciding whom to trust, it does help us surrender ego and exercise more empathy and wisdom when deciding how to move forward. Our kindness grows only when it is tested.
However, this transformation takes time (for most of us a long time), and this means that we not only need to cultivate compassion for others but also for ourselves as we repeatedly try to offer more mature responses in the face of difficulty.
For more on this topic: “Suffering and Adversity: Passing through Difficulties,” in The Book of Joy by Desmond Tutu & The Dalai Lama.