A friend of mine recently recited to me a phrase that he created that had deep significance for him:
“Take meaning from suffering, and purpose from meaning.”
I thought about that, long after he showed it to me, thinking deeply on what that meant for me, and if I truly believed it. I wrote it down, to take with me, because there was a big part of me that was deeply moved by the words. This is what I have come up with about it so far.
Let’s start with the first part, taking meaning from suffering. Telling a person who has suffered deeply, recently, and without relief, may take offense to such an idea, that there is meaning in the pain that we feel. However, I believe for myself that this is true. In every experience that I have had in my life, I have found great lessons there. Now, the lessons don’t always seem apparent to me, when I am having the same experience for the tenth time. However, the lessons do show themselves to me, over time. I have found that there is always meaning in suffering for me.
Let’s take an example. In many past relationships, I have felt wronged by my partner, convinced that I was the one doing all of the work to keep the relationship together. When it would end, even at the times when I ended it, I would feel sad, hurt and alone, and not fully understanding the meaning of the breakup, or my role in why it didn’t work out. Over the years, especially in the last two years, I have developed a deep understanding of the meaning of it all; how I didn’t want to look at my own role, in choosing the partners that I did, or in not doing my part to sustain the relationship over time. I saw the meaning in the experiences of suffering that I had.
I also find great wisdom in the second part of his saying, taking purpose from meaning. For me, if I find the reason or lesson of something that has happened in my life, but don’t use it to create a greater good for myself, or for others, than it seems like wisdom that is wasted. Since I have been alone for quite some time, and now in a new relationship, I am using the meaning from other experiences to create a new type of relationship, one based on total openness, honesty, and connection. The purpose in what I have learned, is that I will strive for the best, deepest love relationship of my life. And, in addition to that, I have learned and am now applying the lesson, to develop deeper relationships with all of the people in my life. That to me is my greatest purpose here. And, it came about in large part, from suffering that happened in my life along the way.
This saying isn’t meant to sound canned, or cliche, or simplistic in what suffering truly looks like for some people. Suffering hurts. Yet, if I had a choice of finding meaning and purpose in my suffering, or passively being in pain and feeling powerless, I would choose meaning and purpose.
Good thing for me, I DO have a choice. I choose meaning, purpose, empowerment and growth.