In life’s harshest times, for example during grief, loss, or betrayal, you have a choice to make.
On the one side is the pull of despair or anger.
On the other is the choice to accept the pain and face life with love.
In Terrence Malick’s film The Thin Red Line, a dead Japanese soldier speaks silently to an American: “Are you righteous? Kind? Does your confidence lie in this? Are you loved by all? Know that I was, too. Do you imagine your suffering will be any less because you loved goodness and truth?”
Goodness will not save us from suffering. In fact it will increase our vulnerability, while those who merely use others feel nothing in their callousness. Yet the first way of living is full of meaning and offers depths of joy, whereas the second is an empty shell.
We need people who, when they suffer, will make the choice to accept their pain and to love, rather than taking the low road into despair or rage. We need you, when you make this choice.
When a person's world is shattered there comes a moment, deep within, when they must make the choice. I say a moment, but actually it is many moments. The choice must be made and remade. Which might sound exhausting, but actually it means you only ever have to deal with one moment at a time. And that is all you have. After his wife died, Jack Gilbert wrote this poem about carrying the grief:
He manages like somebody carrying a box
that is too heavy, first with his arms
underneath. When their strength gives out,
he moves the hands forward, hooking them
on the corners, pulling the weight against
his chest. He moves his thumbs slightly
when the fingers begin to tire, and it makes
different muscles take over. Afterward,
he carries it on his shoulder, until the blood
drains out of the arm that is stretched up
to steady the box and the arm goes numb. But now
the man can hold underneath again, so that
he can go on without ever putting the box down.
What will happen in time is that those muscles will grow. We can learn to bear our suffering. We can also learn to use our suffering. Suffering is a great energy which can be turned to good. When you suffer you are faced with the essence of many things. And faced with them as living realities which you never fully understood. This can be a purification by fire. It is painful but you can come out better. Perhaps wounded or broken in parts - that's reality - but the core and most important part of you will be intact if you choose to face life with love. And it will slowly become the more dominant part.
In time your love will grow and encompass the pain.
"Are you righteous? Kind? Does your confidence lie in this? Are you loved by all? Know that I was, too. Do you imagine your suffering will be any less because you loved goodness and truth?” Your suffering will be different, I can say that with certainty; the suffering of rage and despair is radically different from suffering encompassed by love. Yes, a good person is deeply vulnerable, but they are able to discover deep reservoirs of joy and meaning in life.