Being thankful for suffering

I recently listened to a podcast and the interviewee was talking about one of his early mentors who was a doctor working with leprosy patients in India. He commented on how leprosy, the oldest recorded disease, is also one of the most feared because it robs the body of pain. Those patients lack the body's basic alarm system that tells them not to touch something hot or, even worse, that tiny impulse that makes them involuntarily blink every few seconds. Without that, their eyes dry out and millions of leprosy patients go blind because of it. The doctor said that if he could give one gift to his patients it would be the gift of pain.

The gift of pain. That phrase really hit hard and stuck with me. And while he meant it in a very physical sense, it can easily be broadened to include emotional pain as well.

We so often view pain and suffering as solely a negative thing. I mean, nobody wants to suffer, right? But in doing so, we overlook the good that can come from going through it. It can show us that we're off the track in some way and nudge us to correct our course. As in my own life, it can knock us down a few pegs (in a good way) and make us realize that life's not all about us and our happiness, that we don't know all the answers, that despite our best efforts we're not really in control, and we come out more humble, gracious, compassionate, and forgiving on the other side. Or maybe it just reminds us that we're alive and that our lives are good enough that we even consider it suffering at all.

Erica recently reminded me that all of the things that I've gone through are just part of my journey and they all go into making me who I am today, which is a better person than I was before. [That same conversation also reminded me that I'm very good at dispensing advice and wisdom and then not applying it to myself in the same sentence. I never said I was perfect —or even particularly smart for that matter. :-) ]

So I'm trying to change my perspective and be thankful for the pain, the hardships, and the suffering because without them, I would not be who I am, would not be continuing to knock down bits of my former cynicism and hardness, and would not be open to future growth as I experience more of both the good and the bad that life has to give. Here's to the better me to come.