01 Apr Why I Don’t Trust Anyone Who Hasn’t Suffered
Tomorrow marks the 35th anniversary of the day I watched my father die. I was only 10. Seems way too young to understand anything, but believe me, it gave me a perspective on life that has always been ingrained in the very fiber of my being.
My father was an honest, ethical, and hard working man. A dreamer who gave it everything he had until the bitter end. His life was a range of high peaks and low valleys that all amounted to what I call “True Grit”. That is, having the inner strength and courage to go through major adversity while maintaining your principles.
A Navy Veteran of World War II and the Korean War, several times he put his own life on hold and suffered to defend our country. I didn’t understand how much until my mother died and I found a box of letters they wrote to each other while he was awaiting being sent out to sea. Military back then weren’t paid hardly anything and had to pay for most of their own expenses. My mother worked so she could send him money and food while also supporting their children because his check was next to nothing.
Together my parents had a dream to open their own department store. When he returned from war in the 1950’s, they did just that. It was not easy, but in time they became very successful. Unfortunately, in the 1970’s the economy tanked. Gas was being rationed and interest rates were around 18%. People were unemployed and not doing much shopping. Their business tumbled and my father was diagnosed with cancer at the same time.
Though he was ill, the business was the first thing on his mind. He rarely slept, staying up all night chain smoking trying to figure out how to zig when everything he knew had zagged. I went along for rides with him where he was checking out different options looking for a solution. While he lay on his deathbed, I know it bothered him that he never found one before it was too late and the tremendous sorrow for knowing what he was leaving my mother to deal with alone. I hated that he felt that way and from that I learned what it is that makes someone a success in my eyes. Being a success doesn’t mean that everything works out the way you hoped. It’s handling yourself with dignity when it doesn’t.
People who have never suffered don’t understand this concept. They look at success outwardly and on a very superficial level. At the end of the day, your success in life is not about what you have or who you know. It’s about what you survived, what you believed in, what you stood for, and how you treated others.
Suffering teaches us to be humble, patient, and compassionate. You understand that life is never going to be perfect and there are going to be hardships. Sometimes those down periods can last a very long time, and no they will not always work out for the best. Once you accept that not everything is within your control, you become much less judgemental of other people who have problems. Bad things do happen to good people every day.
Suffering teaches us how to keep trying even when nothing seems to work. The frustration of attempting something only to not get immediate results forces us to look at our own limitations. A person with true grit will acknowledge their own weaknesses and continually strive for improvement. They will never have an ego where they think they know everything. They will always understand that they can learn something from everyone and that learning never stops no matter how old you are or what status you have attained.
People who get everything they want in life easily don’t appreciate what it is to struggle and don’t learn how to push themselves as much. They become complacent and some, real jerks. I guess they feel that they are better than everyone because of their good fortune. They are infallible. But woe to anyone who gets that cocky because life can change in an instant and they won’t have the capacity to handle it gracefully. Someone who has already gone through significant pain will have a much higher tolerance level and will have learned from their past mistakes.
Suffering gives us depth and substance. Nothing is more irritating to me than people who have short and shallow attention spans. Hardship causes your brain to have to work much harder, trying to make sense of it all and come up with creative alternatives. In doing so, your mind becomes open and laser focused. You appreciate being around other people who think beyond the surface and aren’t distracted. In this world where attention spans are less than 8 seconds and pictures of cats win over thoughtful articles by a landslide, finding someone who is willing to take time out of their busy schedule long enough to ponder a meaningful topic is like finding a needle in a haystack. Treasure anyone who will sit down with you and have a deep conversation or read what you have written. Those are the people who care and you want in your life.
Suffering teaches you to be happy when good things happen for other people, especially if you understand the struggle they overcame. You look at them as an inspiration and use their story to give yourself hope even if you aren’t quite there yet yourself. It doesn’t matter because you can appreciate what they went through to accomplish a goal and it lifts you up.
Everyone has different life experiences that shape and form who we are. As for me, I am more comfortable in the company of lepers than kings. I truly think they are better people on the inside and that’s where it counts. Why? Because they know what it means to suffer.
Thank you for your time, attention, and thoughts.