“We only have what we give.”
— Isabel Allende
Tragedy has a way of playing both sides of the same coin. On one side, it causes us to feel infinite grief, unbearable heartache, and crushing pain. But on the other side, it forces us to do something about what we are feeling. It weakens us and gives us strength at the same time. This is why we find beauty rising from ashes and new purpose coming forth out of pain. Everyone has a story of some kind that forms the foundation for what they do in life.
The biggest result of suffering is the ability to empathize with others, relate to the needs of others, and the urge that compels us to help in some way. You don’t have to be a martyr or a sacrificial lamb to help other people. Strangely, when we focus on other people in the midst of our own pain and struggle, on helping them get through their own difficulties, or just being there for them with words of encouragement, our own personal troubles and trials fade away.
Closed off within ourselves, we indulge fear and engage with pain that keeps the inner spotlight on us. But when our fear and our pain our mere puzzle pieces in the grand scheme of the puzzle, we don’t have time to entertain such thoughts. If we let it, tragedy can guide us to other people who are experiencing far worse and surprisingly, we gain strength to help them. The commonality with another soul causes us to grow backbone, square our shoulders, develop a tough hide and a tender heart, and bear someone else’s burden.
The desire to throw in the towel suddenly is a foreign idea because now we are considering the needs of other people instead of just our own. We wonder how a decision here will affect the next person who is struggling with a similar situation. We think about how if we overcome this obstacle what kind of example that would be to someone else who is seeking to overcome the same. Just because we feel frustrated, resentful, or confused doesn’t mean the rest of the world feels the same way.
If you are able to get through your own struggles, then you have done well. But if you’re able to get through your own struggles while helping someone else through theirs, you have done much better. Sometimes when we’re stuck in our own problem and singularly focused on that one thing, we can grow bitter and resentful. Dealing with the question of Why? can be a daunting task in and of itself. But when we think outside the box and include someone else’s struggle in our own, we may just find the solution we’ve been looking for all along.
The purpose of life is not to avoid difficulty. Nor is it for every man his own or to pull one’s self up by his or her own bootstraps. Those are man-mind ideas that stem from pride and independence. We can only be proud of the right things and independent to do what is right and what is in the best interests of not just ourselves, but other people. The purpose of life is find what good thing we can do and fill the world with hope by lightening the burdens of another.
Those who learn to bear the burdens and struggles of other people often find that they have less of a burden to bear. The purpose of life is to make one’s life useful, to be empathic, to be compassionate, to be struck by humanity and to do something about it, to have it mean something that we lived and made a good difference while we were living. Forgetting about ourselves, we find everything we’re really looking for. No one is ever useless unless they make themselves so.
The next time you want to withhold support or help because you think you need the same things, ask yourself if the reasons you’re holding back are actually helping you move forward. If you’re not making someone else’s life better, than ultimately life is meaningless for you. Your life matters to the extent that you make other people’s lives matter. It’s not enough to live. We must determine to live for something and do it with hope, love, and joy.
“Not for ourselves alone are we born.”
— Marcus Tullius Cicero