Can we suffer without causing suffering in others?

Close your eyes and imagine with me for a moment:  A person is in a quiet, dark hospital room. The pain is pretty overwhelming and the doctors are not confident that the misery can be ended. There is no one there to hold a hand, or softly stroke a forehead.

hospital bed

This is some pretty intense suffering.

I don’t know which suffering would be worse, the physical pain or the loneliness?

I don’t think any of us would like to be in that position.

If you are, I’m deeply sorry.

Let’s go back to the hospital in our minds: Two people are in a dark, but not really quiet room.

One, in the bed, is pretty miserable and can only find things to complain about. The pillow is too flat, the pain medication isn’t doing enough, the room is too hot, the nurse isn’t careful enough.

The other, just sits in the chair and tries to focus on the TV because time has proven that nothing he/she tries to do will be good enough. After all these years, there is no energy left to express sincere concern or compassion.

Both have, in their own ways, given up.

Which of the two situations would be harder do you think? Suffering on your own, or suffering surrounded by apathy?

I couldn’t imagine what either scenario would be like. When you think about it, that could be one of the greatest blessings of all: To not be able to conceive what these experiences would be like.

I hope that you can’t either.

If you can, you deserve more. You are worth more.

Don’t give up.

Let’s go back to our imaginations: Two people are in a quiet, dark hospital room.

One is in the bed with some pretty intense pain. The doctors aren’t confident that they will be able to end this patient’s misery.

The other sits in a chair by the side of the bed, holding the bedridden patient’s hand; powerless to lessen the pain.


Each is more concerned with the other, wanting desperately to relieve the hurt.

Whose suffering is worse?

That would be a pretty tough call.

By looking at all three scenarios, we realize that even if we are in the last, regardless of which one we are, we have much to be grateful for.

Even in the midst of all the suffering.

To cause pain in another simply because we ourselves are suffering, is actually a pretty significant and deeply personal gift in life because of what it means.

To wish that we could trade places with someone and save them from their misery would denote that our heart has been opened enough that we care more about another than we do ourselves.

To not be lonely, nor alone amongst those who should be closest to us, would be a true treasured blessing in our life.

What really causes suffering? Sickness? Poverty? Personal weaknesses or addictions? Financial setbacks?

They do, certainly. But aren’t there people who are sick who wouldn’t consider themselves to suffer? Aren’t there those who have little financially but are indeed happy with what they do have? People who are personally weak in one area or another (which would pretty much be all of us) can still find safety and security and power to overcome.

I wonder if what causes true suffering is the lack of the one thing that can actually make suffering not only bearable, but okay.


Over the years I’ve learned how to deal with many of the things in my body and brain that don’t work right. I’m painfully aware of what causes limitations in my life. I’m actually pretty used to pain, physical and mental. Every once in a while I feel like there is something different, and I’m smiling, and I can’t put my finger on it.

Then I realize that I don’t have any pain.

And in my mind I wonder if this is how everyone else feels? Wow, I could definitely get used to this!

After all this time I’m really used to it and I don’t spend too much energy thinking about it or worrying about it. It’s just part of what is. I can work around it.

But for Ann, it is very different. Ann is never sick, rarely feels any physical pain, and is the little engine that could – always making it up and over each hill in front of her.

And yet, in her moments of discouragement she will exclaim in frustration and agony “But there is absolutely nothing I can do to make things better for you.”

Perhaps that would be the worst kind of suffering. Suffering caused by loving the sufferer. This would take a deep, true, pure love.

I wish that I could take it away from her. Suffer it for her. Or at least reassure her that I’m okay, really.

But I can’t, any more than she can for me.

Because we love each other more than words can express. And we feel each other’s pain.

So, how do we suffer ourselves with whatever seems to be our lot in life, without causing suffering in those around us?

If we are lucky, we don’t.

Suffering then becomes a blessing. And we get stronger as we carry the load together.


4 thoughts on “Can we suffer without causing suffering in others?”

  1. You really hit the nail on the head. This is what true love is when we can love others when they suffer and be there for them

    1. I think you are right. Sometimes, we need to be loved, even when we are kind of unlovable. We also need to love, when some of those around us are in a tough situation. Suffering can be kind of a refiner’s fire and make the love more pure. Thanks for reading and sharing.

  2. I laughed (kind of ironically) at your comment about smiling & not knowing why, because I have had those moments too! I wonder what it would feel like to go through a day without something aching or a cough. But when those days or, more likely, moments come, they are great!!

    I think Jeremy is just like Anne; very rarely having anything physical to deal with but struggling with having to sit on the sidelines & watch. Aren’t we lucky skunks to have such great (and great looking) cheerleaders??

    Thank you for your posts; they always seem to be what I need, when I need it. Your perspective seems so much clearer than mine & it’s great to read them & think “that’s exactly what I wanted to say!”

    1. Chels,

      All things considered, we are indeed lucky skunks. I hope that your day is a good one and you find yourself smiling without realizing it. Know we love you always.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *