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Reaffirming the pursuit of happiness.
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Suffering Well


Text taken from "Chapter Five" of the book, Healing the Culture: A Commonsense Philosophy of Happiness, Freedom, and the Life Issues, by Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D.

This book is the basis of our curriculum and mission.


"Why do people have such different reactions to suffering? Because they interpret it differently…The positive result of suffering generally comes from a Level 3/4 interpretation, while the negative result comes from a Level 1 or 2 interpretation."

"The choice we make in times of suffering can do more good or more harm, and have more lasting effects, than just about anything else which could ever befall us or be within our grasp."

"Our interpretation of suffering, however, is not merely a matter of choice. It is also a matter of education. This is one of the primary reasons for the Life Principles project. If people do not have adequate information, they cannot make informed choices."

"Without education people are likely to see suffering from a Level 1 or 2 viewpoint rather than from a Level 3 or 4 viewpoint. Why? Because it is the one that is most obvious, most encouraged by the culture, most advertised in the media, and least in need of explanation and reflection."

"The key to suffering well, the key to transforming an extremely negative condition into an extremely positive one, is knowing where to look for meaning, where to look for the positive amidst the negative."

"What we are looking for is generally what we are living for, and what we are living for is generally what we are looking for."

"Suffering is the occasion for the most poignant manifestation of human freedom."

"Suffering can either lead to the greatest openness of mind and heart, or it can close one off to the world and to other people."

"Suffering can lead to great gentleness and compassion, or great bitterness and self-pity."

"Suffering can purify love, or eradicate it."

"Suffering can lead to the most truthful self-assessment, or to escapism and inauthenticity."

"Suffering can lead to great sympathy with others who are weak or deprived, or secret hatred and arrogance towards them."

"Suffering can lead to universal wisdom and understanding, or towards a perspective completely focused on oneself."

"Suffering can lead toward great faith, or toward rejection of God."

"Suffering tends to throw one’s current identity into question, allowing for the consideration of new data. We tend to screen out data, even very important data, when we do not see a need for it or when we find it unpleasant."

"Suffering uses its vulnerability to cut through the superficial screens, giving one’s power of intuition a quick moment to directly apprehend the mystery and goodness of the other."

"Compassion is a difficult virtue to comprehend in today’s world. It means to ‘suffer with.’ But why would anybody want to suffer with somebody? It seems like nothing’s getting done. It would make much more sense to heal them, get them some food, or do something about their condition. These things are certainly important, but what’s the point of compassion? Compassion begins with a profound awareness of the intrinsic dignity of the other."

"Suffering produces a curious turn of consciousness. It makes life messy, and makes thinking murky. It reveals one’s own vulnerability, and therefore the potential vulnerability of others.

"There is a deeper meaning to suffering. It makes one confront one’s own weakness. One can either hate it and therefore fight it, or one can accept it, and by implication, begin to accept the weakness of others. Those who hate weakness in themselves, of course, generally tend to hate weakness in others."

"Suffering helps to develop this empowering surrender, while this empowering surrender helps to transform suffering into love."


© Copyright 2005 Center for Life Principles. All Rights Reserved. A project of Human Life of Washington.