My great-grandmother passed away last month. She was an unbelievable woman who carried a special place in my heart. It was hard to handle the anguish I felt when I first heard about her death. Her passing left me with an empty feeling inside. The sad, empty, and painful feeling I sensed was my suffering. Human Suffering is a hard concept to grasp, but suffering is a part of everyone’s lives, not just mine. Everyone experiences a form of human suffering at one point or another in their lives. In order to put the misery behind, one must deal and cope with the cause. Blame, vengeance, God and positive outlooks help humans reconcile with the pain of suffering.
Human suffering is the pain and sadness one feels inside when something bad has happened to her or someone close to her. There are two types of suffering: one is caused by another person, and the other type is caused by human nature (Gillman 187). Suffering caused by another person involves crimes and deceitful actions: A person inflicts pain on another person, either internally or externally, causing them and their family agony. An example of this is when a person murders someone else; the murderer creates the suffering for the victim’s family and friends. The murderer took the life of a loved one away, creating an enormous amount of suffering. A group or agency can cause suffering; cutting governmental funding also exemplifies suffering created by a person or group of people. When the government decides to take money out of a certain program, many people lose their jobs and do not get the care they need. Taking from the AIDS clinics, for example, leaves the patients in the clinics helpless. Although the government tries not to look deceitful, they eventually do look devious because so many people are left with no where to go. The selfish works of the government leaves families and friends of the victims of governmental cuts suffer as well. The family suffers knowing the person with AIDS will eventually die with no clinic support.
The other type of suffering is caused by nature. Natural forces create suffering that man cannot control. An example would be an accident caused by an earthquake. The Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 killed family members and co-workers. No one could have predicted the earthquake would be that powerful. The earthquake destroyed weak buildings and caused injuries among the people in the buildings. The act of human nature caused many families and friends to suffer. Loved ones and good friends died from freak accidents like a freeway or building collapsing. Businesses also suffered when they lost their employees and buildings in the 1989 earthquake.
To reconcile and deal with suffering, most people place the blame of an incident on another person, relieving themselves of any responsibility. When the situation that creates suffering is produced by another person, such as a homicide, the blame is easily placed upon that individual. Taking that person to court is the next step towards taking a person’s mind off of the suffering. The person suffering will want to make sure that the murderer suffers as well. When anguish is due to natural disasters or diseases, in which man physically could not control, the blame is not directly pointed towards an obvious target. Most times people will look at the people that were involved before the incident and blame those people. Blame can be directed towards the architect of a building that collapsed or a doctor of a sick patient who died. People put the blame on others so they do not feel responsible for their own suffering.
Vengeance constitutes another way people deal with suffering. Often times seeking revenge is not as constructive as the other forms of coping, but it still relieves the pain of the initial sufferer. Payback helps the original sufferers by redistributing the agony to other people. Taking an individual to court exemplifies revenge. After a person kills a family member, that family of the dead person will want the murderer to go to jail for her actions. The family will want the murderer to suffer more than they already have. The law and court system is most commonly used when a person is seeking vengeance on another person. There is larger scale revenge that starts out with small-scale revenge, but then turns into a larger mess. The small-scale vengeance starts out with a more one-on-one approach. Then it turns into a larger scale vengeance when the initial revenge angers more people. Almost everyone in the situation is suffering while they are trying to barter for happiness by giving the pain to others.
September 11, 2001 marked a day that no one will forget. The Taliban, through Osama Bin Laden’s beliefs, destroyed the World Trade Center buildings. America has come together since then to seek revenge against the Taliban and Bin Laden by sending troops into Afghanistan. This battle, like any battle, has killed innocent bystanders. By fighting, however, Americans feel the Afghanistanians are suffering for what the people from their country have done to the people of United States. The small group vengeance may have turned into a large group vengeance, but at least coping is accomplished by switching the agony from one group to another. Americans feel more at ease with the tragedy by knowing some of the murderers from Afghanistan are suffering for their actions. Achieving revenge makes the person suffering feel as if they found justice, even if they made the situation worse for other people.
Coping with the pain and suffering is also achieved by turning towards religion and God for help, as well as looking at the positive aspects of the situation. Church is a place a person goes after a loved one dies or something bad has happened to her. People go to church because it is believed to be a place where, not only can you ask God questions about why the bad event happened, but also it is a place where you can try to reconnect with person who has died. This place is called the “thin places” (Gomez 402).
These “thin places” are a comforting place to seek help with coping. God is a comforter in ones times of need at these “thin places”, even if one is not normally religious. People turn to religion to seek answers. Peter Gomez writes, “He is religious because he wanted to make sense of what he was experiencing, pain and all, and on his own and by himself he could not” (402) Although people do not get direct answers, God and the bible give anecdotes to why certain things may happen to people. God is seen as an almighty supporter. Abraham Heschel says that God even suffers with us at every loss (Gillman 209). God feels the pain others do when a family member dies or a natural disaster kills thousands of people. The people on earth are all God’s creations. When one of God’s creations dies, he mourns the loss of one of his own.
When someone suffers, often times, in an attempt to relieve pain, she also tries to see the optimistic side of suffering and analyze what positive outcomes have resulted from the situation. When a loved one has passed away and died, many people take assurance in believing the person who died will be going to heaven, thinking she is in a better place. The idea of heaven gives people comfort, knowing their family member or friend will be in the ideal location, with God, making sure the deceased will be safe. For example, when a person’s possessions are taken away from her, she can be optimistic, recognizing she still has her health or that she was not in the house at the time of the robbery because she could have been killed as well. When a person thinks of worse circumstances, there is relief that harsher suffering was not gained. Being optimistic can help one realize that her suffering is not as bad as it could have been.
Feeling sad and empty inside is not my idea of fun. I was indignant when my great-grandmother died. After her death, I had blamed the doctors for not trying hard enough to revive her from her heart attack. It just was not fair that the medical staff gave up so easily. Then, I went to church more, and I asked God why this happened. I realized it was her time to move on and her time to go to heaven. Looking at the positive aspects really helped me cope with my loss. Suffering can be difficult to deal with but through religious coping, blaming others, seeking vengeance and looking on the bright side, it can be done, trust me.
1.Gillman, Neil. Sacred Fragments: Recovering Theology for the Modern Jew. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1990.
2. Gomes, Peter. “The Bible and Suffering”. Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum. Behrens, Laurence and Leonard J. Rosen. New York: Addison Wesley Longman Inc, 2000.
3. Neiman, David. “An Introduction to Job”. Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum. Behrens, Laurence and Leonard J. Rosen. New York: Addison Wesley Longman Inc, 2000.