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Suffering

  • Suffering has always been with us, does it really matter in what form it comes? All that matters is how we bear it and how we fit it into our lives.

  • ... we could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world.

  • ... although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.

  • To have suffered much is like knowing many languages. Thou hast learned to understand all.

  • ... even those who call themselves 'intimate' know very little about each other — hardly ever know just how a sorrow is felt, and hurt each other by their very attempts at sympathy or consolation. We can bear no hand on our bruises.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1858, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 2 ()
  • I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable.

  • ... we do not die of anguish, we live on. We continue to suffer. We drink the cup drop by drop.

    • George Sand,
    • 1834, in Marie Jenney Howe, ed., The Intimate Journal of George Sand ()
  • The unendurable is the beginning of the curve of joy.

  • Real misery cuts off all paths to itself.

  • The hardest thing we are asked to do in this world is to remain aware of suffering, suffering about which we can do nothing.

  • Pain is an event ... Suffering, on the other hand, is the nightmare reliving of unscrutinized and unmetabolized pain.

  • It is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong, because you can remain the friend of the sufferer; who would want to be the friend of and have to live together with a murderer? Not even another murderer.

  • Perhaps the worst thing about suffering is that it finally hardens the hearts of those around it.

  • What we suffer for is enriched by our suffering until it becomes priceless.

  • Green wounds scarce abide the toucher's hand.

    • Elizabeth I,
    • 1579, in Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great ()
  • Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.

    • M. Kathleen Casey,
    • in Karen Casey and Martha Vanceburg, The Promise of a New Day ()
  • Grief does not end and love does not die and nothing fills its graven place. With grace, pain is transmuted into the gold of wisdom and compassion and the lesser coin of muted sadness and resignation; but something leaden of it remains, to become the kernel arond which more pain accretes (a black pearl): one pain becomes every other pain ... unless one strips away, one by one, the layers of pain to get to the heart of the pain — and this causes more pain, pain so intense as to feel like evisceration.

  • Suffering is also one of the ways of knowing you're alive.

  • That was one of the worst things about suffering; it made one indifferent and insincere.

  • So long as one is able to pose one has still much to learn about suffering.

  • It is human misery and not pleasure which contains the secret of the divine wisdom.

  • If there were no affliction in this world we might think we were in paradise.

  • If someone does me injury I must desire that this injury shall not degrade me. I must desire this out of love for him who inflicts it, in order that he may not really have done evil.

  • Christians ought to suspect that affliction is the very essence of creation. To be a created thing is not necessarily to be afflicted, but it is necessarily to be exposed to affliction. ... Affliction is the surest sign that God wishes to be loved by us; it is the most precious evidence of His tenderness.

  • It seems to me, Monsieur, that there is nothing more galling in great physical misfortunes than to be compelled to make all those about us share in our sufferings. The ills of the soul one can hide, but those which attack the body and destroy the faculties cannot be concealed.

    • Charlotte Brontë,
    • to M. Héger (1845), in Muriel Spark, ed., The Letters of The Brontës: A Selection ()
  • Everything in life that we really accept undergoes a change. So suffering must become Love.

  • The only thing worse than being hurt is everyone knowing that you're hurt.

  • Suffering raises up those souls that are truly great; it is only small souls that are made mean-spirited by it.

  • True knowledge comes only through suffering.

    • Elizabeth Barrett Browning,
    • in Charlotte Porter and Helen A. Clarke, eds., The Complete Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning ()
  • A wounded Deer — leaps highest — ...

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • c. 1860, in Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson ()
  • After great pain, a formal feeling comes — / ... / This is the Hour of Lead — / Remembered, if outlived, / As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow — / First — Chill — then Stupor — then the letting go — .

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • c. 1862, in Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson ()
  • Unto a broken heart / No other one may go / Without the high prerogative / Itself hath suffered too.

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • in Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson ()
  • Every acceptance of suffering is an acceptance of that which exists. The denial of every form of suffering can result in a flight from reality in which contact with reality becomes ever thinner, ever more fragmentary. It is impossible to remove oneself totally from suffering, unless one removes oneself from life itself, no longer enters into relationships, makes oneself invulnerable.

  • The more people anticipate the elimination of suffering the less strength they have actually to oppose it. Whoever deals with his personal suffering only in the way our society has taught him — through illusion, minimization, suppression, apathy — will deal with societal suffering in the same way.

  • There is no wrong suffering. There is imaginary, sham, feigned, simulated, pretended suffering. But the assertion that someone suffers for the right or wrong reason presupposes a divine, all-penetrating judgment able to distinguish historically obsolete forms of suffering from those in our time, instead of leaving this decision to the sufferers themselves.

  • One's own troubles can be borne with fortitude; only a monster of indifference can bear the sufferings of others with fortitude.

  • ... it was the mental injuries that I was least able to treat. In the worst cases women had lost their entire families — husbands, children, and parents all dead. Many of these women had also lost their minds. They sat and muttered and cried and laughed aloud. They hugged themselves and rocked back and forth, gazing at nothing for hours on end. They refused to eat and had no idea of day or night. And I could do nothing to help them.

    • Halima Bashir,
    • in Halima Bashir with Damien Lewis, Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur ()
  • ... none but the unhappy are worthy of friends; if your soul had never suffered never could you have entered mine.

    • Julie de Lespinasse,
    • 1773, in Katharine Prescott Wormeley, trans., Letters of Mlle. de Lespinasse ()
  • Pain and suffering are a kind of currency passed from hand to hand until they reach someone who receives them but does not pass them on.

  • ... I will not sit in sackcloth / will not dry my palms with ashes / will not eat the dust / for that does not celebrate you / and that does not celebrate me ...

  • It is critical for both more privileged and relatively more oppressed groups to listen to each other's pain without playing the who-is-more-oppressed game. We see the same thing done in families or between couples who argue about who has suffered more. Presumably, the person who has suffered less is supposed to give in to the greater sufferer's demands. If this is allowed, suffering is encouraged because it brings with it power. The point, of course, is not to get people further hooked on suffering but to free them to learn about joy, effectiveness, productivity, abundance, and liberation. They need to listen to their own and to others' stories and to acknowledge where their pain is so they can open up the door to growth and change — not to bludgeon each other with it.

  • ... one finds a way of building one's pain into the foundations of one's life so that it becomes a strength and not a cause of destruction.

    • Enid Starkie,
    • 1941, in Joanna Richardson, Enid Starkie ()
  • Unhurt people are not much good in the world.

  • Those who have been made great have first suffered.

  • The portion of some is to have their afflictions by drops, now one drop and then another; but the dregs of the cup, the wine of astonishment, like a sweeping rain that leaveth no food, did the Lord prepare to be my portion.

  • There is a childish vanity in suffering, in suffering better and more than anyone else.

    • Colette,
    • "The Cure," in Mary Louise Aswell, ed., It's a Woman's World ()
  • Speech isn't for agony.

  • Agony without genius was gaucherie.

  • The capacity to suffer varies more than anything that I have observed in human nature.

  • Since suffering confers no rights on its victims, we who witness are the ones responsible for restoring these lost rights.

  • There are, of course, two kinds of suffering, that which has a reward and that which doesn't.

  • That there should be a purpose to suffering, that a person should be chosen for it, special — these are houses of the mind, in which whole peoples have found shelter.

  • ... the human soul, by once suffering as much as it is capable of, purchases a strange and terrible immunity to all the rest of life's sorrows.

  • It ought to be possible for individuals to become spiritually rich, to grow profound in their souls, without suffering, but ordinarily they do not, and I think it is so with countries.

  • The weariest nights, the longest days, sooner or later must perforce come to an end.

  • Suffering is to the heart and soul as tears are to the eyes, cleansing and expelling toxicity from the inner system. When we do not allow ourselves to feel appropriate pain, we move into a sort of non-experience. We watch life rather than live it; we look but never get too close.

  • Suffering belongs to no language.

    • Adélia Prado,
    • "Denouement," in Ellen Watson, trans., The Alphabet in the Park: Selected Poems of Adélia Prado ()
  • ... people are strong despite suffering, not because of it.

  • As we do at such times, I turned on my automatic pilot and went through the motions of normalcy on the outside, so that I could concentrate all my powers on surviving the near-mortal wound inside.

  • The more a thing is torn, / the more places it can connect.

    • Meredith Stricker,
    • "Island," in Deborah Keenan and Roseann Lloyd, eds., Looking for Home ()
  • Those who have suffered understand suffering / and thereby extend their hand.

    • Patti Smith,
    • "Rock n Roll Nigger," Patti Smith Complete 1975-2006 ()
  • Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms, you would never see the beauty of their carvings.

  • Pain is the most individualizing thing on earth. It is true that it is the great common bond as well, but that realization comes only when it is over. To suffer is to be alone. To watch another suffer is to know the barrier that shuts each of us away by himself. Only individuals can suffer.

  • It is in the middle of misery that so much becomes clear. The one who says nothing good comes of this is not yet listening.

  • There's no way that I know of to avoid pain absolutely, but suffering is the interpretation we choose to place on the pain we encounter.

  • It used to be regarded as a theological problem that God could be indifferent to the continuance of human suffering. What is really remarkable is that the human race can be.

  • There is much pain that is quite noiseless; and vibrations that make human agonies are often a mere whisper in the roar of hurrying existence.