The Art of Meaningful Living – 5: Accept/Avoid/Act on Suffering

Suffering can be inevitable.
Suffering can be self-inflicted.
Suffering can be a signal of harm or danger.

Inevitable suffering is disease, problems due to old age, death, loss of loved ones, physical abilities and possessions. Such things cause some pain. We cannot avoid it no matter what. But we can accept it. If we accept that some suffering is inevitable, that itself decreases the suffering. Once you accept that you can live your life to the full by doing what you really like.

Self-inflicted suffering is psychological pain that we create from within our minds. What is this suffering? It is the suffering that you create when you say – I don’t have this thing, they have this thing, therefore I am unhappy, they are happy. This is something that you inflict upon yourself, no one does it to you. Another way we do this is when you say – You are causing me endless trouble, therefore I am suffering. Well, someone may have hurt you in a way, but that is no reason to wallow in suffering. If you can do something constructive about it, then do it. If not, accept it as something inevitable.

Some types of suffering can be a signal of danger. An obvious example is physical pain. There is no point in minimising such physical pain. You have view the pain as information your body gives you. You have to see whether it is something trivial or something that you need to act upon, by taking rest or medication or seeing a doctor. Similarly, if you have emotional pain, because you lost somebody or you are hurt by somebody you have to reflect on it and then accept it or make a considered choice.

But no matter what type of suffering or pain, don’t live your life avoiding pain, because that is impossible because suffering is part of the human experience. It does not need to define your life.

  • Accept suffering that is inevitable
  • Avoid suffering that you inflict on yourself.
  • Act on suffering that is a signal of danger or harm.

Accept, avoid and act. Depending on the situation.

You will then find more meaning in your life.