I’ve been thinking a lot about suffering lately. It cruised into my head a few days ago, parked and decided to stay a while; not actual suffering, but rather thoughts in and around the topic. And in my ponderings I have thought things that are in no way new to me. These reflections, however, seem to be hitting me in a fresh new way. I am really starting to wonder why on earth suffering exists on the level of regularity it does.
Yeah, yeah, I can hear the rebuttals already, “We live in a fallen world,” and “Suffering is necessary to grow character,” and so on and so forth. I agree. And I am even thankful for the suffering that I have been through in my life because, for the most part, it was used to form me into a stronger, more insightful and empathetic person; for the most part I said. But even in acknowledging these facts about the presence of suffering in the world, I still cannot grasp, at this point in time, how on earth we as humans allow others to live in the daily suffering a vast majority of people live in. Lately I’m finding it cruel, and inhumane. How can this be?
Maybe it starts with us not wanting to take responsibility for others’ sufferings. “We’ve got our own problems,” right? And if we don’t, we don’t want them! We also often tend to shift the blame or responsibility to a Higher Power. “God got us into this mess, and it’s His responsibility to get us out,” or acting as though all that can be offered for another’s suffering are prayers from afar, because a mere mortal is not capable of such a divine intervention. Some Believers would even say it’s blasphemous for us to be “arrogant enough” to say or think we could do anything to relieve the suffering of another; “that’s God’s job”. But what keeps hitting me over, and over, and over again is the realization that we humans have the capacity to end the suffering of others.
Like, I am literally talking about completely abolishing the majority of suffering on the earth. It is totally possible! In the same way humans are responsible for causing so much suffering, in the form of injustice, inequality, oppression, hate and selfishness, they can be equally responsible for removing it through seeking justice, repatriation, leading others to liberation, love and selflessness. Some famous dude once said something to the extent of, “Suffering only exists because good people allow it to” (at least I think someone said that, because I can’t believe I made that up). That’s what I’m talking about!
Poverty in the world could be eradicated by evenly distributing the wealth of the world. Hungry people could be fed with the excess of food glutinous people indulge in on a daily basis. One person’s bad day could be completely turned around by a random act of kindness from a stranger, or even a friend. An ear could be offered to someone “suffering in silence”, so at the very least, that individual is no longer trapped in that prison of silence. Suffering, for the most part, is really just the lack of relief from an unpleasant experience. And the pungent thing is, we all have the power within us to offer that very needed relief, in most situations, in one form or another. And all it takes is for good people to act.
Don’t get me wrong! I am in no way making light of the suffering that people go through. When I look at some of the situations people live in I am deeply saddened, and even appalled at times. But what is even more appalling to me is the thought that someone’s suffering could be ended, or at least toned down, by a selfless act of another, and yet good people rather keep to themselves, in turn holding back that much needed relief. And you know what? It does not matter what your situation is, or how “bad off” you think you may be, there is always someone in a worse off situation. So, something positive from your perceived “bad off” situation, could be used for the good to totally uplift someone in a “worse off” situation; the value of mere camaraderie at the very least.
Evil reigns when good people don’t intervene. Hate is really just the lack of love. Injustice occurs when we decide to turn a blind eye. Suffering exists when those with the capacity to offer relief from that suffering choose not to act, or at least don’t choose to act. I have decided to become more aware of this, not just in the situations of those who I have invited into my life, but also with those who just pass in and out, who may remain nameless. For this season, my question for the day, whether on a macro or micro level, is, “What can I do to end the suffering of another?”. And I’m looking for answers.