How did we learn that suffering is noble? Where did we learn this and how was it shown to us? How was it reinforced? In the broadest sense, we can see it has been part of our human culture for millennia. Early indigenous people used it to gain favor with the gods or nature by sacrificing/offering their food, animals, and even humans. Our western religions use suffering as a sacred tenant. Jesus suffered for us. The saints suffered for us. In the East, suffering is connected to our ‘attachment’ to our desires and expectations. In the East, we have to work out our ‘karma’ so we can re-incarnate into a higher class with more privileges and less suffering.
In the most intimate sense, we saw it with our families when our mother never got a hot meal to make sure ours were never cold. The parents gave their bed up for their mother-in-law when she came to stay. We saw it in the teacher or coach who worked weekends and over recess while we went out to play. We saw it with the fathers who stuck around (or fled) the daily commute to and from work that they didn’t feel fulfilled in, for a boss they hated, all to bring home the bacon for the family. In an economic sense, it shows up in how we are rewarded/valued for our work. The harder and dirtier the labor or higher the social good, the lower the pay to those providing it. Teachers, ditch diggers, custodians, social workers. Suffering = nobility. This is a messed-up equation. We would rarely choose suffering if we realized there was another option.
The other option is Self-Love. Caring enough about ourselves to make choices that are most loving to us, regardless of what others are choosing for themselves. Unfortunately, when we are taught suffering is noble self-love becomes a ‘radical’ act. Radical in ways that may go against cultural norms and bring us the fear of losing our connection to others. Self-love is NOT narcissism. It is NOT selfishness. It is NOT a rejection of what others choose for themselves. It is NOT about ignoring another’s needs or taking advantage of others to get what we want. Self-love IS about remembering that we are the ones who most know what we need, want, feel, and what is right for us in each moment. It’s about coming into alignment inside with all our inner voices and putting them into their proper place and perspective. The ego wants you to believe that suffering is noble. It hopes you will get your needs met if you suffer enough, even though that doesn’t actually work. Your inner child doesn’t want to suffer yet sees no other way based on the ego’s story of what is true. Your higher self/guardian is waiting to support you, yet you have to ask to activate and receive that support.
When WE become the CEO of those inner relationships, suffering is no longer necessary. Suffering is a roundabout way to get what one needs at best, and a life drainer at its worst.
It is much easier to simply know what we want, know what we don’t want, and be able to ask for it clearly and kindly without attachment to the outcome. That is the ‘sovereignty’ we seek and the highest form of self-love.
As we move from a 3rd-dimensional framework of dualistic thinking (e.g. right/wrong, us/them, good/bad) into a 5th-dimensional framework of unified thinking (e.g. what is right for each of us, our shared purpose, what feels best to us), self-love allows us to become ‘sovereign’ inside of ourselves. From our place of sovereignty, we can join with other sovereign beings to unite through our diverse and unique contributions to the whole. Suffering can become a thing of the past when self-love becomes the goal of each moment.
How can you shift from suffering to self-love today?