You may have heard this quote before: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”1
Sounds good, right? But when we’re the ones suffering, it feels anything but optional. And to suggest that we’re choosing to feel this way feels pretty insensitive.
So let’s take a closer look at what this saying really means.
What’s the difference between pain and suffering?
In life, it’s true that pain is inevitable. Every one of us will experience not only physical pain but also emotional pain many times throughout our lives. We will experience losses, rejections, and defeats, and they will hurt — there’s no getting around that. To suggest otherwise would be to deny our experiences and our feelings, and no real good comes from denial. (We may push those feelings down in one place, but they’ll pop back up in another — in our relationships, in our physical health, or somewhere else.) Read More
- While there is some debate about the origin of this quote, it’s often attributed to Japanese author and marathon runner Haruki Murakami: Murakami, Haruki (2009). What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, New York: Vintage Books, p. VII. ↩