Interconnectivity Of Joy And Suffering

Today’s blog is adapted from The Empowerment Paradox by Ben Woodward, a Nikken Royal Diamond Consultant who writes and speaks about entrepreneurship. His insights are appropriate to incorporate into a life of Active Wellness. Here’s what Ben graciously shares:

From a young age, we are taught that suffering should be avoided. Don’t touch the hot stove. Wear a helmet. Be careful when it’s slippery. The problem is not all suffering can be avoided. If we treat suffering as something only to be avoided, we will be unprepared to handle the unavoidable suffering in our lives.

We must reframe suffering as something unpleasant but not without value. After all, it is only through suffering that we can experience and appreciate joy. As a result of winter, we appreciate spring. As a result of illness, we appreciate health. As a result of death, we appreciate life.

The opposing sides are not at war, but tightly joined together—two sides of the same coin. We cannot have one without the other. By understanding the interconnectivity of joy and suffering, you can learn to accept and even embrace the suffering of your life, recognizing it as a potential catalyst for growth and greater joy.

Often it is the lowest, darkest times in life that lead to the greatest personal growth. That was the case for my friend Andy who had an accidental fall that broke his back. The doctors repaired the extensive damage by fusing pieces of his spine, which made matters worse rather than better. He often walked with a cane and sometimes used a wheelchair due to the injuries he’d sustained. I asked him once how often he experienced pain.

“Every day,” he told me.

“Are you in pain now?”

“Yes,” he said, remaining just as calm and composed as ever.

When I inquired further, he told me that it felt like his feet and legs were on fire, and that this was his normal state of being. Sometimes it felt manageable, and other times it overwhelmed him. Remarkably, he also told me this: “I have come to appreciate that breaking my back was the second-best thing that ever happened to me—second only to meeting and marrying my wife. What it has demanded of me has shaped me into a person I never would have become otherwise.”

His story is remarkable not because of his degree of struggle, but because of his response to it. When faced with great pain, or chronic struggle, he was obliged to confront it and be transformed by it. His response ensured that it was for the better.

The way we grow or suffer through the challenges of life depends entirely on our perspective. There is no escaping suffering, yet there is also joy to be found when we are patient, humble, and accepting of our circumstances. But this perspective does not develop overnight. When Andy first broke his back, he wasn’t immediately happy and appreciative. However, the fact remained that his back had been broken. He couldn’t change that, and the working of time and necessity brought him to a place where his heart changed.

In a conversation with my wife, I had explained that we need to let go of our illusions in order to truly be free and to achieve our goals. “Don’t we lose hold of our dreams doing this?” she asked. This was a powerful observation. Many hold onto illusions for fear of losing their dreams.

“No, quite the opposite,” I explained. “As long as we hold onto illusions that keep us from confronting reality, we cannot make a lasting, real change. We may need to adapt, pivot or make some changes to accommodate an unwanted challenge or pain point, but the change makes dreams and goals possible.”

I assure you, better dreams can be created – and more importantly, realized, when we let illusions go, confront reality – even the painful parts of it, and work with conviction and hope towards a bright and wonderful future. The future is certainly bright.