Don’t Confuse Suffering with Virtue

Our neglect of self-care should never be applauded.

Photo by Darran Shen on Unsplash

Unless it’s for some greater good, or we’re suffering so that others don’t have to, there is nothing noble about the willful acceptance of misery. We allow others to torment us and be reckless with our hearts. We cut ourselves open and bleed for those underserving, and remain in situations that bring us endless agony. For what? To say that we didn’t quit? To boast our endurance of “difficult times?” We think we’re doing something righteous by not giving up on people, love or circumstances. So, we sacrifice ourselves for causes repeatedly proven futile.

Our devotion should have limits. The moment we start to suffer constant, needless pain is a great place to draw that line. Of course, not every day will bring sunshine. There will be actual hard times. We can’t and shouldn’t just throw in the towel when the going gets tough, not if we care. Yet, there does come a point where we’re fighting for others at the expense of ourselves. Loyalty must reside with our own well-being above everyone and all things.

A major culprit in keeping us committed to unhealthy situations is a feeling of obligation. We feel like we owe someone something and even bear responsibility for their transgressions. We become invested in relationships to a fault and don’t know when, let alone how to let go.

This is where learning to practice non-attachment can help. There’s a saying attributed to Buddha:

“You can only lose what you cling to.”

It is this fear of loss, of losing something or someone that results in us holding on, or rather being held on to, at our own detriment. We’re afraid. In practicing non-attachment, those ties to a particular outcome don’t exist. You are more inclined to have a perception rooted in reality and the acceptance of situations as they are, even if that means facing the end. People come, people go and things change. We know this, it’s just that the understanding is often overshadowed by our affinity to familiarity. Being comfortable in our misery doesn’t make it any less miserable, however.

Practicing non-attachment isn’t synonymous with indifference. You still care. You still try. It doesn’t make lackluster effort acceptable. It’s about balance and being present in the moment, which actually allows you to embrace it more fully — Because you’re not dependent on its continuance. You aren’t living in or making decisions based on either the future or the past. There is only now. Non-attachment helps us break free from patterns of thought and behavior that do not serve us.

Don’t give some greater meaning to sources of tension and anguish. Sometimes dysfunction is really just dysfunction. Pain is simply pain. Suffering is only suffering. Call it what it is. Sometimes what may have once been there, is gone — Replaced by an ultimately self-inflicted cycle of mental and emotional abuse. This is a condition heralded only by those who seek to contain us. They will not offer tributes in gratitude for our travails.

Pain is not a measure of love, or dedication, and definitely not virtue. There is no glory to be found in our surrender to affliction.

Author of a critically-acclaimed book on women and dating. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1687069786

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