Suffering with Grace
For the past two weeks, I have been reminiscing about my grandmothers. Both were extremely strong women who survived their husbands, raised children as single parents, and who struggled to keep a roof over their children’s heads. Their lives were filled with hardship yet somehow they persevered.
Somewhere in my reflections, I began to think about suffering with grace. This is something that the men and women of my grandparents’ generation knew all too well. Life was difficult. Sometimes all a person could do was to try to survive to the next day, week, or year.
There was drought and famine. Many people lost their farms during the dirty thirties. No one had money and neighbours had to band together as best they could.
Then, the war came. The generation who had lost fathers and older brothers in the war that was supposed to end all wars got called to serve. Yet even men who had to leave behind wives and children did so willingly. Likewise, their wives took on the full responsibility of house and home, raising children while keeping the farm running knowing that their husbands might not come home.
You have to wonder if our generation and the generations that follow would have the courage and the fortitude to survive such things. After all, we are the Me generations. What’s in it for me? Why should I have to be uncomfortable or suffer in any way, shape or form? It’s not my problem.
Sacrifices and a Better Life
Because of the generations before us, we have come to expect an easier life. The men sacrificed for our freedom overseas. The women did the same at home to keep a roof over their children’s heads, to educate them, and to provide hope for the future.
It is because of the sacrifices of our grandparents that we assume it is our right to have proper nutrition, good solid health care, and a warm bed to sleep in each night. We’ve come to expect that there will always be a social program that will help us in our time of need. More so than that, we’ve become conditioned to believe that any sort of inconvenience or discomfort is unacceptable.
Yet, suffering still exists. I’m not talking about existential suffering- we suffer because of our perceived distance from the Divine. I mean that each and every one of us has moments of our life where we have no other choice but to put one foot in front of the other just to survive another day. Be that a trauma, chronic illness, the passing of a loved one, the loss of a business, or a divorce – at some point in all our lives we will all suffer.
This fact of life comes in direct conflict with our societal expectations. We’ve truly come to believe that life is supposed to be sunshine and roses. Joy, happiness, and prosperity are ours. Indeed, it is our birthright.
So when we do experience these pivotal moments, we are deeply conflicted. The first thing each and every one of us does is question why. Somehow, we’ve come to believe that if we suffer, we are being punished for some wrong doing be that an angry Deity or poor life choices.
The sad thing is that we do so even though there are ample examples of men and women going through the exact same things. We judge ourselves harshly and naturally do the same to others. Then, we isolate in an attempt to hide our shame.
Not once does the thought ever occur to us that this might be an opportunity to suffer with grace. So we deny, stuff, and medicate our problems away. In doing so, we deny our children (and their children) a real life example of resilience. Moreover, we continue to reinforce the ridiculous notion that only bad people (or worse throw away people) have troubles.
I now realize the truly valuable legacy that my grandmothers left to me. In their lives, there was hardship and suffering. Yet, these strong women exemplified suffering with grace and resilience. Even during the worst of times, they dusted themselves off and kept putting one step in front of the other.