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Syndicated Columns

Everyone's threshold for suffering is different

Posted September 23, 2006

Q. Why do I have to suffer? -- J.C., Boca Raton

A. Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism all view suffering from different perspectives. Yet their one common element is the actual experience of suffering.

Suffering is subjective. Our personal threshold for pain, disappointment, jealousy and envy all contribute to our perception of suffering.

Numerous philosophers, authors and psychologists believe suffering comes from a mental state.

Emperor Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic philosopher, notes: "If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment."

Many teachers advise us to embrace suffering.

"You know quite well, deep within you, that there is only a single magic, a single power, a single salvation ... and that is called loving," Hermann Hesse said. "Well, then, love your suffering. Do not resist it, do not flee from it. It is your aversion that hurts, nothing else."

In his great wisdom, Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl believed, "What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him."

Today is Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. It is a time to look back at the past year and plan the changes to make in the new year.

Find the value in living, for it diminishes suffering.

L'Shanah tovah ... for a good year.

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