Do you believe suffering has a role in character growth? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 24 Old 12-07-2010, 01:58 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My eyes were opened lately to realize that many do not believe this. It has always been a given to me that hardships and challenges and suffering play big roles in how we grow as people. I mean, if life was all polly-anna how deep would we ever have to go? 

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#2 of 24 Old 12-07-2010, 03:30 PM
 
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Oh absolutely. As a Catholic, I believe that suffering can help purify your soul as well. Not that I want to suffer!

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#3 of 24 Old 12-07-2010, 03:34 PM
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I'm not religious, and I do believe that suffering plays a big role in how we change as people, but I wouldn't necessarily call it growth.

 

Some people end up horribly damaged by the suffering they experience.

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#4 of 24 Old 12-07-2010, 04:08 PM
 
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I'm not religious, and I do believe that suffering plays a big role in how we change as people, but I wouldn't necessarily call it growth.

 

Some people end up horribly damaged by the suffering they experience.



I agree. I'm not religious and the suffering in my life has changed me.. not always for the better. I once went to an event where a woman got up and said she'd learned that "we were born to suffer as our Lord Jesus suffered". That made me very uncomfortable. I was not born to suffer. I was born to love and to learn. I was born to share knowledge and help others when I can. 

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#5 of 24 Old 12-07-2010, 04:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm not religious, and I do believe that suffering plays a big role in how we change as people, but I wouldn't necessarily call it growth.

 

Some people end up horribly damaged by the suffering they experience.



So would you say that a person who has minimal painful experiences can have the same level of character depth as someone who has survived and grown through pain?

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#6 of 24 Old 12-07-2010, 06:19 PM
 
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I would say yes, it has a role.  Or rather, it *can* be an avenue for growth.  Depends on the situation and the person.  Sometimes, as someone mentioned, damage is just damage. 

 

In my spiritual beliefs, *anything* can ultimately be redeemed.  But that "ultimate" is not always on this side of heaven.

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#7 of 24 Old 12-07-2010, 06:35 PM
 
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No, and it's one of the reasons I'm an atheist.  I think it's part of the tortured thinking that rationalizes why a suposedly all powerful deity allows awful things to happen to people, because there is no other reasonable explanation.

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#8 of 24 Old 12-07-2010, 06:41 PM
 
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I'm not religious, and I do believe that suffering plays a big role in how we change as people, but I wouldn't necessarily call it growth.

 

Some people end up horribly damaged by the suffering they experience.



So would you say that a person who has minimal painful experiences can have the same level of character depth as someone who has survived and grown through pain?



I really can not fathom thinking otherwise.  

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#9 of 24 Old 12-07-2010, 07:12 PM
 
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I do not think that suffering is the best way to develop character. Suffering can break and ruin people, make them heartless, cruel, spiteful, resentful, full of fear and unwilling to love. While some people do develop positive traits that were tempered in their hardship, I won't agree that the same person could not have learned the same lesson another way. For example a child of a wealthy family is taught values of philanthropy. On a family vacation at a resort, he is profoundly impacted by the sight of a child with a cleft lip begging. He finishes med school and spends his summers working to train third world physicians how to repair cleft palettes. What character advantage does an empoverished child with a birth defect have over him... suffering yes... but I don't think the son of privelege is missing out because his life was blessed. If there was a way to measure these things, I think you'd find as many genuine evil people who have suffered, as you would genuine gold characters who have not.
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#10 of 24 Old 12-07-2010, 07:28 PM
 
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I think it has more to do with how you react to your suffering than how much you experience. That's why Catholics will offer up their suffering to God as a sacrifice. It's a form of penance, but also a way of submitting to the inevitable. Suffering is inevitable, you might as well harness it's potential power.

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#11 of 24 Old 12-07-2010, 07:40 PM
 
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It certainly does in my mind.  I don't go thru life as a Christian w/o hardships or struggles.  When those times happen, I pray and ask for guidance.  God is teaching me skills to better deal with struggling in the future.


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#12 of 24 Old 12-07-2010, 07:57 PM
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I'm not religious, and I do believe that suffering plays a big role in how we change as people, but I wouldn't necessarily call it growth.

 

Some people end up horribly damaged by the suffering they experience.



So would you say that a person who has minimal painful experiences can have the same level of character depth as someone who has survived and grown through pain?

 

What's minimal to one person can be traumatic for someone else. It's all subjective, and we're all unique individuals who react differently to stimuli.

 


 

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#13 of 24 Old 12-08-2010, 05:16 AM
 
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I think it has more to do with how you react to your suffering than how much you experience. That's why Catholics will offer up their suffering to God as a sacrifice. It's a form of penance, but also a way of submitting to the inevitable. Suffering is inevitable, you might as well harness it's potential power.


I agree.

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#14 of 24 Old 12-08-2010, 07:00 AM
 
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I don't think it's suffering that causes character growth. I think it's OVERCOMING, or at least surviving, the suffering that causes the growth. So it's the not the struggle exactly-- it's the experience of having pulled one's self successfully through the struggle.

So if somebody has suffered, but has not felt successful at finding peace with that struggle, bringing resolution to that struggle, etc., then that struggle doesn't produce that deepening and growing effect that I think we're talking about.

We know that from watching children develop-- present a child with a meaningful challenge, one that is difficult but not impossible, and support him as he works to meet that challenge-- and you watch the child learn and deepen and grow. He emerges with his sense of self intact. He grows more confident in his ability to meet difficulties. As his confidence grows, he needs to spend less spiritual and mental energy worrying about his adequacy-- and so he is able to look outside himself, and grow in compassion for others.

Present a child with a situation that is entirely beyond his ability to handle, that is completely out of his control, and that he cannot find any way to meet and overcome (like abuse, for instance)-- and you'll see a vastly different result. Plenty of people who have been damaged by their suffering wind up MORE preoccupied with themselves, less resilient in the face of difficulty, and less compassionate towards others.


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#15 of 24 Old 01-07-2011, 02:57 PM
 
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1. Life means suffering.

2. The origin of suffering is attachment.

3. The cessation of suffering is attainable.

4. The path to the cessation of suffering.

 

1. Life means suffering.

To live means to suffer, because the human nature is not perfect and neither is the world we live in. During our lifetime, we inevitably have to endure physical suffering such as pain, sickness, injury, tiredness, old age, and eventually death; and we have to endure psychological suffering like sadness, fear, frustration, disappointment, and depression. Although there are different degrees of suffering and there are also positive experiences in life that we perceive as the opposite of suffering, such as ease, comfort and happiness, life in its totality is imperfect and incomplete, because our world is subject to impermanence. This means we are never able to keep permanently what we strive for, and just as happy moments pass by, we ourselves and our loved ones will pass away one day, too.

2. The origin of suffering is attachment.

The origin of suffering is attachment to transient things and the ignorance thereof. Transient things do not only include the physical objects that surround us, but also ideas, and -in a greater sense- all objects of our perception. Ignorance is the lack of understanding of how our mind is attached to impermanent things. The reasons for suffering are desire, passion, ardour, pursuit of wealth and prestige, striving for fame and popularity, or in short: craving and clinging. Because the objects of our attachment are transient, their loss is inevitable, thus suffering will necessarily follow. Objects of attachment also include the idea of a "self" which is a delusion, because there is no abiding self. What we call "self" is just an imagined entity, and we are merely a part of the ceaseless becoming of the universe.

3. The cessation of suffering is attainable.

The cessation of suffering can be attained through nirodha. Nirodha means the unmaking of sensual craving and conceptual attachment. The third noble truth expresses the idea that suffering can be ended by attaining dispassion. Nirodha extinguishes all forms of clinging and attachment. This means that suffering can be overcome through human activity, simply by removing the cause of suffering. Attaining and perfecting dispassion is a process of many levels that ultimately results in the state of Nirvana. Nirvana means freedom from all worries, troubles, complexes, fabrications and ideas. Nirvana is not comprehensible for those who have not attained it.

4. The path to the cessation of suffering.

There is a path to the end of suffering - a gradual path of self-improvement, which is described more detailed in the Eightfold Path. It is the middle way between the two extremes of excessive self-indulgence (hedonism) and excessive self-mortification (asceticism); and it leads to the end of the cycle of rebirth. The latter quality discerns it from other paths which are merely "wandering on the wheel of becoming", because these do not have a final object. The path to the end of suffering can extend over many lifetimes, throughout which every individual rebirth is subject to karmic conditioning. Craving, ignorance, delusions, and its effects will disappear gradually, as progress is made on the path.


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#16 of 24 Old 01-07-2011, 07:14 PM
 
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OP, like others I think this is not so much of a 'belief' but a fact.  If a person feels that suffering in their life has made them a deep person then that is THEIR fact.

If others say their suffering did nothing for their life than that is THEIR fact.      

What the rest of us believe is not nearly as important as what we consider our own facts.

 

 

re: the 4 noble truths.

..."attachment is suffering" leaves me a bit cold.   maybe I will read more there has got to be more.   


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#17 of 24 Old 01-07-2011, 11:25 PM
 
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Life is suffering? I can't believe that. Do all my Buddhist friends believe that? If so, they haven't mentioned it before.

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#18 of 24 Old 01-08-2011, 01:12 AM
 
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Life is suffering? I can't believe that. Do all my Buddhist friends believe that? If so, they haven't mentioned it before.



It's the most basic principle of Buddhism ... the essence of the thought that sparked the entire philosophy. It does not, however, mean to imply that life is continually arduous, painful, difficult, etc ... it's more like "life inevitably contains suffering" than "life is suffering and only suffering and nothing but suffering."   It's Buddhism, not Emo.  :D

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#19 of 24 Old 01-08-2011, 02:04 AM
 
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I read this article the other day, so I have been thinking about this very topic. I'm not sure what I believe....on the one hand I would like to think that hardships have a silver lining and that one can develop a previously unknown higher state of being because of one's endurance. On the other hand, the argument that folks survive in spite of, rather than because of suffering is persuasive. I also don't like the implied sense that suffering makes one superior in some way....also implied is the idea that one who crumples under hardship or one who experiences few hardships is somehow spiritually lesser. I don't buy that at all. So I am left with a contradiction! If suffering is somehow purifying, and possibly leads to a higher state of spirituality (and who wouldn't want to believe that in the midst of hardship?), then those who don't suffer must be somehow lesser, and it's a short step from there to begin to glorify suffering, which I believe is absolutely wrong. Of course acceptance of suffering is different than courting it, but still, I find it a slippery slope.

I also recognize that looking at trauma from a psychological point of view, as in the above article, is different from forming a belief regarding suffering and spiritual growth, but I think that one informs the other. At least it does for me.

Finding meaning in suffering is tricky, especially if you believe in a god. I'll be watching this thread.

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#20 of 24 Old 01-08-2011, 09:46 AM
 
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Life is suffering? I can't believe that. Do all my Buddhist friends believe that? If so, they haven't mentioned it before.

Yes. But wait there's more.... LOL  

 

As a practicing Buddhist the concept of suffering plays a key role in my life. The word and concept are so deep and complex. Suffering understood in a Buddhist context is a touch different than what our standard, knee jerk definition of that term might be. The Buddha used the term "dukkha" that often is translated as "suffering". In english it really doesn't quite capture what he meant though. Dukkha is stress, unsatisfactory, dislike, aversion, grief or sorrow, want, uncertainty, craving or longing, despair, things being in a "do not want" state. Life is in a constant state of change. Nothing is permanent and everything is connected. We are connected to constant change and that means that things or states we approve of will inevitably change to a state we do not approve of.

 

To live means that we will experience these things. We will know grief, sadness, longing, despair, anger, and stress. We will, occasionally or often, be knee deep in dukkha, so to speak. help.gif

 

Buddha taught that we can strive to recognize these states, accept them, and release. For many it feels like a strange deal because though it was his big point, Buddha didn't want people to get stuck on the suffering thing. I tend to view it more like an illuminating tool. Suffering is gonna happen, so then what?


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#21 of 24 Old 01-08-2011, 11:17 AM
 
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AI do not think that suffering is the best way to develop character. Suffering can break and ruin people, make them heartless, cruel, spiteful, resentful, full of fear and unwilling to love. While some people do develop positive traits that were tempered in their hardship, I won't agree that the same person could not have learned the same lesson another way. For example a child of a wealthy family is taught values of philanthropy. On a family vacation at a resort, he is profoundly impacted by the sight of a child with a cleft lip begging. He finishes med school and spends his summers working to train third world physicians how to repair cleft palettes. What character advantage does an empoverished child with a birth defect have over him... suffering yes... but I don't think the son of privelege is missing out because his life was blessed. If there was a way to measure these things, I think you'd find as many genuine evil people who have suffered, as you would genuine gold characters who have not.


Well said.

 

Suffering can lead to deep compassion and commitment to act with kindness and justice but it can also leave a person so deeply wounded that they are unable to function well in life and unable to trust or love other people.

 

A life of comfort and privilege can leave people shallow and oblivious to the reality of other people but it can also give them the tools and energy to do great good in the world.

 

There are people who suffer greatly but have strong supportive relationships around them and/or the personal or external resources to cope with the suffering. Then there are people who may have a lesser degree of suffering but no resources (inner or outer) to help them adapt and they come through a relatively minor experience less able to function and contribute to society.

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#22 of 24 Old 01-08-2011, 06:24 PM
 
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Thank you, UnschoolnMa! I am very interested in Buddhism, and I was really getting hung up on the concept of suffering from a Buddhist perspective. You clarified that some for me. :)

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Life is suffering? I can't believe that. Do all my Buddhist friends believe that? If so, they haven't mentioned it before.

Yes. But wait there's more.... LOL  

 

As a practicing Buddhist the concept of suffering plays a key role in my life. The word and concept are so deep and complex. Suffering understood in a Buddhist context is a touch different than what our standard, knee jerk definition of that term might be. The Buddha used the term "dukkha" that often is translated as "suffering". In english it really doesn't quite capture what he meant though. Dukkha is stress, unsatisfactory, dislike, aversion, grief or sorrow, want, uncertainty, craving or longing, despair, things being in a "do not want" state. Life is in a constant state of change. Nothing is permanent and everything is connected. We are connected to constant change and that means that things or states we approve of will inevitably change to a state we do not approve of.

 

To live means that we will experience these things. We will know grief, sadness, longing, despair, anger, and stress. We will, occasionally or often, be knee deep in dukkha, so to speak. help.gif

 

Buddha taught that we can strive to recognize these states, accept them, and release. For many it feels like a strange deal because though it was his big point, Buddha didn't want people to get stuck on the suffering thing. I tend to view it more like an illuminating tool. Suffering is gonna happen, so then what?



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#23 of 24 Old 01-08-2011, 08:11 PM
 
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Also wanted to put in my 2 cents on the suffering and character growth thing. In my personal experience, some times of suffering in my life have been very cleansing, and have changed me for the better, made me a stronger person, though I did not know it at the time. Some instances of suffering, I have not gotten past, and I have remained 'stuck' mentally, emotionally, spiritually, as a result.

  I don't know why this is the case, just my experience.

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#24 of 24 Old 01-10-2011, 09:50 AM
 
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some times of suffering in my life have been very cleansing, and have changed me for the better, made me a stronger person, though I did not know it at the time

Very true for me as well!


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