Suffering deepens us.
We love, and we suffer, this is what it means to be human.
Our experience ranges from the most incredible states of joy and ecstasy to the most intense feelings of pain and sorrow. It is this polarity that defines the human condition.
We cannot understand love without suffering, in the same way that we cannot understand health without illness, black without white, or success without failure. They go together. We could not possibly acknowledge the existence of one without the existence of the other.
We literally could not know or appreciate the tremendous sense of joy and gratitude we feel when we live with love if it wasn’t for our experience of the pure and unadulterated hell that comes from meaningless suffering.
We can live with one more than the other, but rest assured these qualities will eventually cross paths. Beauty cannot be maintained without tragedy. The existence of love implies the understanding and transcending of suffering.
In my experience, profound suffering deepens our capacity for love. It is almost as if the deeper we are forced to delve into the fabric of our own being, whether it be through great love or great sorrow, we cultivate our ability to feel. We expand our ability to experience the fullness of life—both the painful and the joyous aspects.
I would not have it any other way. I want to feel everything. I don’t want to be afraid to love to avoid suffering, and I want to face my suffering so that I can love more greatly. This is what true strength is to me, the willingness to love in the face of suffering and the capacity to endure suffering in the name of love.
I have been living with a severe chronic illness for the past few years, and at times it has felt impossible to bear. It felt like the weight of all things pressing vigorously down on the most intimate parts my soul. I have felt torn up inside, mangled, and disfigured. It harms me deeply to think of the experiences I could be having if it wasn’t for my condition; traveling, going to school, having relationships, feeling the abundance of youthful physicality, and so on.
Though, something strange has happened: in spite of all of this, I have come to feel deep love.
Not overnight. Not all at once. Not in a momentous cathartic release of rapture and elation. It has been a slow and gradual feeling—a subtle emanation of joy arising beneath the pain. It may sound preachy, but I feel like the suffering I have endured through my experience with this illness has made me capable of great love—which is not something I really felt before.
Khalil Gibran spoke well to this:
“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”
When we accept our suffering as it is, then we learn to love more deeply.
This my thought: the feeling of love and the feeling of suffering come from the same place within ourselves. They arise from the same ineffable space of pure feeling that exists in every living thing. They are two distinct forces that come from the same fundamental awareness that underlies everything that is seen, and this is why they are so integral to each other. It is the same life force that is expressing itself as either love or suffering, and it is our connection to this energy field that deepens our capacity to feel.
Understanding the relationship between love and suffering is essential to living a powerful life.
Author: Samuel Kronen
Image: Chris Barbalis/Unsplash
Editor: Danielle Beutell
Copy Editor: Taia Butler
Social Editor: Leah Sugerman