Nothing Suffered, Nothing GainedPublished on September 27th, 2012 by Jo Sprague
If little labour, little are our gains: Man’s fate is according to his pains.
— Robert Herrick, Hesperides, 1650
When faced with something painful, we can either choose to avoid it, or to endure it. Often, our natural inclination is to avoid suffering. We would prefer to stay safely in our homes, not risking failure, loss or rejection. I have spent as much time as anyone trying to evade hardship, and I’ve been faced many times in the last few months with the choice to either avoid suffering or to endure it.
We often miss out on the best things in life by rejecting and avoiding painful experiences, but when we embrace suffering, we often find that the result of our endurance is worth the price that we have paid.
This weekend, a group of guys from work climbed Pico Duarte, the highest mountain in the Caribbean. I knew it would be challenging, but the other mountains I’ve climbed are nothing compared to Pico Duarte. It took us three days to hike the mountain, but by the middle of the first day’s hike, I didn’t want to take another step. I didn’t want to suffer for two more days just to see a view and go home. But I was committed to finishing, and so I endured.
The hike was miserable for me, and when we got to the top, it was cloudy and there was no view. All I experienced the entire trip was suffering. There was no pleasure for me. But I am glad I climbed the mountain. I didn’t receive a tangible external reward, but the endurance produced an intrinsic reward that was worth all of the suffering. Stretching myself so much, and overcoming the challenge grew me as a person in a way that I wouldn’t have otherwise grown.
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