Suffering is a feeling of mental or physical pain. Some of the synonyms of suffering are agony, distress, hurt, and woe. Physical pain is usually a product of bodily afflictions which results in some discomfort. An example of physical pain is an injury to any part of the body.
Mental pain, however, is usually a feeling of loss someone has when his real state differs markedly from his desired state. For instance, an unemployed person suffers mental pains because his unemployed status contradicts his desired of being gainfully employed.
In as much as we try to avoid any forms of pains, that suffering is found everywhere makes it imperative that we understand what suffering is, its causes so that we can better manage it and enjoy a good life.
Suffering is an effect
James Allen said, “Thoughts are causes and conditions are effects.” In the same vein, suffering, being a state of being, is an effect. Suffering is not responsible for itself. You have to look beyond suffering to get to its cause.
Types of Suffering
From the above definition of suffering, we know that there are two types of suffering: physical and mental. However, this definition relates to suffering as effect.
There are suffering types that derive from whether the sufferer is the cause of her suffering or not. Direct suffering is the case in which the sufferer is the cause of her suffering. In vicarious suffering, she’s not the cause. In both cases, the sufferer’s responsibility is to strive to cut her suffering.
Causes of suffering
The primary cause of suffering is ignorance. We suffer pains mainly because we lack knowledge in the particular area we suffer. Since none of us know everything about all things, we all suffer to the degree of what we don’t know. All other things being equal, our suffering in any areas of life ceases when we gain an understanding of those areas.
The second cause of suffering is negligence. Negligence is the failure to act with the prudence that a reasonable person would exercise under the same circumstances (WordNet). When you have knowledge of the cause of your suffering, the next step is to do something to put an end to it. Failure to act means your suffering will continue. We often hear that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. The question is, “How many of us actually eat an apple a day.” My daily apple eating habit is far from being formed. How about you?
Reason why we suffer
Suffering is a symptom – it shows us what is not right that needs being corrected. Suffering tries to teach us something we need to learn.
Our suffering is more pronounced where the main reason for our existence is the reason for our suffering. We read that Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered. For someone whose life essence was to die on a cross, he needed obedience to carry out such feat. Even when he would rather not die such death, he had to trust and obey the person that sent him. He had his obedience perfected through suffering.
I once experienced a financial loss. It was very painful. What did I learn? I learned the meaning of trust. It was a betrayal of trust that resulted in the loss I suffered. Now I know what the Scripture means when it says, “Woe to him that puts his trust in man.” Not only have I come up with my definition of trust (believing someone without thinking), I know the cost of each letter of the word “trust” when you put your trust in the wrong person.
How to cut suffering
First, we need to overcome ignorance to cut suffering because the cause of suffering is ignorance. To overcome ignorance, we need to gain knowledge. Ignorance is like being in darkness. To dispel darkness, you need light. Light is to darkness, what knowledge or education is to ignorance.
David shared an interesting experience in the Bible that explain what we are discussing here. There was a time that he, David, saw the wicked prospering. He admitted that he envied them. By the way, envy, strife and jealousy are different forms of mental suffering. From the above anecdote, David suffered because he saw the wicked prospering.
How did David overcome his suffering from envy? He said when he went to the House of God; he gained an understanding of what awaited the wicked that prospered. He found that they prospered to their own hurt. With this understanding, David stopped envying the wicked and probably started pitying them.
The other way to cut suffering is to act on the knowledge you’ve gained. If you don’t take action on what you know to do, you’re not better than those who don’t know what to do.
Knowledge and action remedy not only direct suffering, they also remedy vicarious suffering. For instance, if someone’s poor decision would impact negatively on you; it’s in your best interest to advice that person on what her action or inaction could result in. For instance, passengers in a bus cannot afford to keep quiet when their bus driver is driving dangerously, a parent shouldn’t ignore the poor choices of her child.
It’s a fact that you can’t really influence people – people do what they want to do. However, taking action by advising people whose actions or in-actions can make you suffer vicariously removes the burden of guilt. Then you can say, “I tried my best.” Needless to say that guilt is one of the worst pains to suffer.
Is there any area of life in which you’re suffering? Is it in your finance, health, relationship or business? All you need is education in that area. Get a coach or a mentor to help you. Read a book in that area. When you gain knowledge, then act on the knowledge you’ve gained. When you do, you will quickly cut your suffering in an amazing way.