The embrace of suffering baffles most of us.  We view it as weakness---for in our modern world suffering is an enemy. But suffering is reality, and to suffer is to be human.  So embracing suffering is about embracing your humanity---becoming real.

This is beautifully put in the children's tale, The Velveteen Rabbit, when the toy Skin Horse says to the toy rabbit : "When you are Real, you don't mind being hurt."

Suffering's not about becoming a doormat, letting people do cruel things to you, ignoring your rights or the rights of others. Instead, suffering is about letting go of the outrage that only strengthens your ego.  For when you mind being hurt your ego feeds on the resentment you feel.  And when it's fed long enough and has gotten big enough your suffering, turned to resentment will, in turn, inflict suffering on others.  You become part of the cycle of violence.

You will suffer, no matter what you do to try to keep yourself from suffering.  What you do with your suffering will either damn you to a life of anger turned to festering resentment toward others, or it will humble you and make you real---that is, human, and deeply compassionate.  You may no longer have what you thought you needed to live the life you wanted.  You may have to let go of what you thought you could not live without.  But you are still alive, still breathing, still capable---in fact, more capable---of true love.

"When you're Real, you don't mind being hurt."  That's an extraordinary freedom---a freedom that woos us this Holy Week.

AuthorChris Neufeld-Erdman