Reflections: On Voluntary Suffering

The struggle through hardship builds character.

No matter if its real life individuals or a fictional character, the same theme is evident with the people I admire. The ability to deal with the pressures and stresses of life, to handle the lowest point of their life with grace and to come out of it, transformed into a new individual. This new individual who understands the benefits of the struggle they just went through. Who is appreciative of the hardships for it made them stronger, more disciplined, built their work ethic and gave them perseverance.

It can sound a bit cliché, bordering on corny but this archetype is everywhere. One has to go through hell to get to heaven. The duality of nature. The struggle or suffering is needed in order to improve ones character. The dichotomy of choice. Either get better or lose. You cannot coast through life. You either build yourself anew through suffering or you get broken by it.

I believe in this archetype but at the same time, it can be difficult to live by. I live a comfortable life, come from a good family and don’t have hardships that many people go through. However, everyone has their own issues to deal with. Everyone has something they struggle with and its all contextual. Some are clearly worse than others. If your perspective is correct, then, it is easier to see that.

What to do then? How can you be realistic and at the same time harden yourself through struggle? Life will often present you enough scenarios to do that. As, Viktor Frankl said, the meaning of life is finding the answers to the questions life asks of you. You can always rely on life to present you with difficult questions. It’s the matter of realizing the opportunity that is presented to you, being thankful, and trying to absolute best to not only make the best out of the struggle but to thrive and to come out of it an improved individual.

You can also voluntarily take on struggle. Disciplining yourself and dedicating yourself to something other than mere pleasures and wants can test your will. This can be done through waking up early and working out, forcing yourself to jog at 6 am can do the trick. Dieting, fasting, cutting out the pleasurable food that you wish for but are killing you. Go a day or two without eating and see what you are capable of.  Fear setting, setting goals and committing yourself to do what makes you uncomfortable. Often times doing what is uncomfortable is where the growth comes from because that is a struggle to complete. We don’t want to do what is uncomfortable. We want what is easy.

Self inflicting struggle will make you grow as a person because it makes you adjust to what you don’t like and eventually make that a part of your character. That is what all the heroes do in the fictional tales. That is what all the people I admire have done or are doing their life. The thing that is difficult is the things you have to be the most grateful to. This mindset is healthy. With this mindset those difficult times become obstacles rather than barriers. Obstacles that can be overcome. Sometimes you have to put those obstacles in front of yourself in order to see what you are made of. Other times life will do it for you. The ones life puts in front of you will be harder so, it is best to practice on your own, to keep sharp and keep in shape so when the time comes for the real test, you are ready.