Life for everyone, no matter their appearance, wealth, connections, or power, involves struggles and challenges.
Parents struggle to raise their children in a healthy, wholesome manner; children as they grow struggle invariably with peer relationships, schoolwork, self perception and self esteem, authorities in their lives: parents, teachers, religious figures/spiritual leaders/counselors.
Adults struggle in finding suitable and adequate careers and work, in paying bills, in making time for personal growth and satisfaction in their lives, in developing and fostering healthy relationships with spouses, employers etc.; business people struggle to meet monthly overhead expenses, to find and keep productive employees, to pay employees, to grow their business.
Religious leaders struggle to keep their temples, churches, synagogues, mosques full and to offer the kinds of services that enrich and grow spiritual lives.
Poor families struggle to put food on the table. Rich people struggle to manage their wealth and prosperity.
We all struggle to get along with each other in our families, communities, country, and world.
If there is a common denominator to all life, it is struggle. Plants struggle to grow and bear fruit or flowers. Animals struggle too to care for their young and to survive.
But of course without struggle, without challenges, we do not grow, maintain good health or remedy ill health. We do not prosper. We do not by happenstance have good relationships, we have to cultivate them often with great difficulty. Nor do we by happenstance advance in our work and careers without welcoming inevitable challenges. Life is never a straight line; it is a series of ups and downs.
So often though, the word “struggle” connotes suffering and unhappiness. Struggle can only become suffering when we resist or deny the inevitable difficulties and challenges, ups and downs life is sure to offer. When we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by life’s challenges, we suffer. When we identify with the challenges or struggles, we become them and we suffer. Struggles and challenges are neutral. Every life has them. It is our response to them that determines whether we benefit from them for our increased growth and wellbeing or whether we allow them the power to make us unhappy and suffer.
We have only to look at the lives of some very famous people to see writ clear whether the struggles they encountered enriched them or destroyed them. Einstein, possibly the 20th century’s greatest scientific mind, met constant obstacles from European academicians as he advanced his groundbreaking theories in physics. No German University would hire him, labeling him more artist than scientist. He met this challenge by continuing undaunted to write and publish brilliant papers even while he was “exiled” to a clock tower to fix watches. He maintained his equilibrium during the ups and downs of his struggles, pursued his work in physics, and was eventually recognized for his brilliance by scholars and scientists in other countries and especially in the U.S. He spent his later years as a revered physicist at Princeton University. He turned his struggles into opportunity as did another major figure among many – Nelson Mandela of South Africa.
On the other hand, we can look at famous figures such as Henry Tudor the 8th of England, Napoleon of France, Stalin of Russia, and Hitler of Germany to name just a few. Instead of meeting the challenges and struggles of leadership with wisdom and equanimity, they tried to control and manipulate those struggles for unhealthy ends and they and their countries suffered the consequences.
When we accept life’s struggles as inevitable, bear them and meet them wisely and creatively, we grow and prosper. When we resist them, we resist life itself, we perverse the laws of nature and we suffer.
For a happy and productive life, it is incumbent upon us to go with the flow.
Nice article Eileen! I noticed in your call line you treat systemic toxicity. Do you have any blogs you’ve written about that? I’d be interested to read more about it!
I truly appreciate the eloquence of the way this article is written by the author Eileen Meagher using examples from history to share the analogy between struggle and suffering. It is filled with knowledge and shares how to create a more positive outcome in ones own life by accepting life’s struggles and meeting them creatively so that growth and prosperity can be attained as apposed to resistance.
Interesting take on struggle vs suffering. Struggle is good with right attitude and helps one grow but if resisted makes one suffer. Thanks for sharing.