How to deal with suffering

It’s hard to stomach world suffering

IT’S been a horrible few weeks in the world, and a hard time for sensitive people. The daily news has been so distressing and appalling that if I were not a journalist, I wouldn’t turn on or read the news.

As it is, I can’t read the papers over breakfast, or watch television news over dinner, as what I see often makes my stomach turn and I can’t digest my food.

Last week there were two or three stories that had me feeling ill and powerless, but I soldiered on, feeling dreadful: children hit by cars, abused, murdered, starving; the massacring of animals; revelations of torture. But something snapped one morning after one particular story: I was in the bathroom putting on make-up, then I was suddenly crouched on the floor, crying. My partner tried to comfort me but I said this to him, and I am saying it now.

Sometimes it’s respectful to grieve openly for all beings that suffer untold cruelty in the world. To cry for the starving children in Africa; the wars; the sickening violence; the rape of our environment; our brutality towards animals; the lack of humanity and unfairness of it all. And it’s not only respectful, it’s necessary. It goes to the heart of our humanity. It’s a sign that we can’t accept the way it is. Our souls are screaming out in protest. We grieve also that we’re so powerless to fix things. How did all that publicity on the cruelty of animal exports change a thing?

I rang a dear friend who is a counsellor, because I needed help getting through the day: ‘‘I feel like nothing I do will make a difference,’’ I said into the phone. But rather than bolster me up, he said: ‘‘I feel the same. There are days when after I hear the news I just want to hide behind a closed door.’’

There is much good in the world. But ‘‘survival of the fittest’’ prevails. The head ape, the silverback, will always dominate. The strong will rule, the sensitive will be subjugated, and all the protests in the streets will not stop the order of things. There may be change somewhere on the planet for one moment in time, but history will repeat itself.

When I get like this, I start to give up hope. But then I remind myself that the finer qualities of being human means we keep going and we keep trying even though our hearts are breaking — maybe even because our hearts are breaking. We may grieve, we may scream in horror and despair. But continuing to try to be of help in our own small ways — against all odds — is the only way to find meaning in this strange, unfathomable world.

How do you express your despair? Do you send money? Are you an activist? Or do you feel powerless? How can we change things?

Please  “comment” below

Full story The Australian



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8 Responses to How to deal with suffering

  1. Ben 21 January 2014 at 5:31 pm #

    I feel the same way…especially the unimaginable inhumane cruelty toward animals and the exploitation of the poor/weak. It feels a part of me is always crying, locked somewhere inside I rather neglect. I broke down and cried a few times, all with the same thought that the very nature of this world is too cruel and how I feel so incompatible to be here. But life goes on and we have to try to do whatever bit of good we can in our immediate sphere of influence. May be like rain drops, one at a time, we’ll make an ocean of a better, kinder, compassionate, loving future, but also fun, carefree, and innocent.

  2. lilianna 13 November 2011 at 6:22 pm #

    I feel exactly the same way you do and sometimes it is depressing to know that we cannot do much about world suffering. But I went to a wedding today and spoke and laughed and even danced the the brides Mother and Aunt, it made things so much happier. We need to do more of that and welcome more people and family. Thank you Ruth

  3. Claire 13 November 2011 at 6:08 pm #

    Whoops – a correction to my previous comment written too quickly – William Wilberforce championed the society for the prevention of cruelty to animals….

  4. Claire 13 November 2011 at 3:14 pm #

    A great article on suffering- you mirrored my thoughts exactly. When we feel helpless about all the suffering in the world we need to look to people like William Wilberforce who persevered through so many setbacks to bring about the total abolition of slavery (he also championed causes such as the society for the prevention of animals). We must keep up the good fight and not give up, and support organisations like Animals Australia and Animals Asia who do so much good work.

  5. janeyababes 13 November 2011 at 2:42 pm #

    Thank you for your article, It’s been a horrible few weeks in the world…reading this made me feel so much better that you felt like I did and you wrote about it. Not only do sensitive people deal with their own lives but feel for those of us suffering worse events. Perhaps some people do not ‘feel’ because they have no ovaries. I have 3 children 22, 21 & 17 who cannot sit down at the dinner table without checking their phones, I have had to stop cooking so our family will disintegrate , where are we all going.

  6. Claire 12 November 2011 at 11:19 pm #

    This is sadly our reality…our world, created by our choices. Complacency is our worst enemy.. I’m a time poor idealist. I believe we should make the effort to change the small things that we can …sharing a smile, making better choices about food, putting food and presents under the Xmas gift tree, most importantly being thankful for what we have. We can’t fix everything but shouldn’t be overwhelmed by this. Rather, we should strive to make the little things better, and where we are working as part of the bigger picture, we shouldn’t be afraid to use our voice to create change.

  7. braceyourself 12 November 2011 at 7:49 pm #

    Great article Ruth for those of us who are sensitive to the pain and suffering of others some days can be overwhelming emotionally , the collective vibration of emotion that we experience leads to action and awareness ,In the words of the Dalai Lama” to create peace for yourself create peace for someone else “

  8. Tony Alexander 12 November 2011 at 5:39 pm #

    I don’t feel that I carry the weight of the world’s problems on my shoulders, maybe I’m lucky or maybe I’m callous.
    When I say I’m lucky, I don’t mean my life has been blessed with good fortune. Far from it.
    It’s not really a question of feeling helpless because there are so many ways we can help other people. I do volunteer work which is appreciated far more than I’ve ever imagined considering how little is required of me in that capacity. I suppose I could do more but how much is enough? I don’t believe that giving money will solve the world’s problems any more than if I had a massive amount of wealth it would solve all my problems.
    So I do what I can to help others and don’t fret too much about what I cannot do.

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