A man will renounce any pleasures you like but he will not give up his suffering.
—Georges Gurdjieff (1877–1949) Armenian Spiritual Leader, Occultist
The experiences of camp life show that a man does have a choice of action. There were enough examples, often of a heroic nature, which proved that apathy could be overcome, irritability suppressed. Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress. We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way. The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity—even in the most difficult circumstances—to add a deeper meaning to life.
—Viktor Frankl (1905–97) Austrian Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist
In default of inexhaustible happiness, eternal suffering would at least give us a destiny. But we do not even have that consolation, and our worst agonies come to an end one day.
—Albert Camus (1913–60) Algerian-born French Philosopher, Dramatist, Essayist, Novelist, Author
Affliction, like the iron-smith, shapes as it smites.
—Christian Nestell Bovee (1820–1904) American Writer, Aphorist
The mind grows sicker than the body in contemplation of it’s suffering.
—Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso) (c.43 BCE–c.18 CE) Roman Poet
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away blessed be the name of the Lord.
—The Holy Bible Scripture in the Christian Faith
But there is suffering in life, and there are defeats. No one can avoid them. But it’s better to lose some of the battles in the struggles for your dreams than to be defeated without ever knowing what you’re fighting for.
—Paulo Coelho (b.1947) Brazilian Songwriter, Novelist
There is no true love save in suffering, and in this world we have to choose either love, which is suffering, or happiness. Man is the more man—that is, the more divine—the greater his capacity for suffering, or rather, for anguish.
—Miguel de Unamuno (1864–1936) Spanish Educator, Philosopher, Author
As long as you think that the cause of your problem is “out there”—as long as you think that anyone or anything is responsible for your suffering—the situation is hopeless. It means that you are forever in the role of victim, that you’re suffering in paradise.
—Byron Katie (b.1942) American Speaker, Author
Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it. My optimism, then, does not rest on the absence of evil, but on a glad belief in the preponderance of good and a willing effort always to cooperate with the good, that it may prevail.
—Helen Keller (1880–1968) American Author
Suffering is permanent, obscure and dark, And shares the nature of infinity
—William Wordsworth (1770–1850) English Poet
We are threatened with suffering from three directions: from our own body, which is doomed to decay and dissolution and which cannot even do without pain and anxiety as warning signals; from the external world, which may rage against us with overwhelming and merciless forces of destruction; and finally from our relations to other men. The suffering which comes from this last source is perhaps more painful than any other.
—Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) Austrian Psychiatrist, Psychoanalytic
Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seamed with scars; martyrs have put on their coronation robes glittering with fire, and through their tears have the sorrowful first seen the gates of Heaven.
—Edwin Hubbell Chapin (1814–80) American Preacher, Poet
If you learn from your suffering, and really come to understand the lesson you were taught, you might be able to help someone else who’s now in the phase you may have just completed. Maybe that’s what it’s all about after all…
Suffering becomes beautiful when anyone bears great calamities with cheerfulness, not through insensibility but through greatness of mind.
—Aristotle (384BCE–322BCE) Ancient Greek Philosopher, Scholar
There is a very real danger of our drifting into an attitude of contempt for humanity. We know quite well that we have no right to do so, and that it would lead us into the most sterile relation to our fellow-men. The following thoughts may keep us from such a temptation. It means that we at once fall into the worst blunders of our opponents. The man who despises another will never be able to make anything of him. Nothing that we despise in the other man is entirely absent from ourselves. Why have we hitherto thought so intemperately about man and his frailty and temptability? We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer. The only profitable relationship to others—and especially to our weaker brethren—is one of love, and that means the will to hold fellowship with them. God himself did not despise humanity, but became man for men’s sake.
—Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–45) German Lutheran Pastor, Theologian
To bear other people’s afflictions, everyone has courage and enough to spare.
—Benjamin Franklin (1706–90) American Political Leader, Inventor, Diplomat
We learn from our mistakes, and the amount we learn is in direct proportion to the amount we suffer from having made the mistakes.
—Tommy Prothro (1920–95) American Football Coach
In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.
—Aeschylus (525–456 BCE) Greek Playwright
Rather suffer than die is man’s motto.
—Jean de La Fontaine (1621–95) French Poet, Short Story Writer
As threshing separates the wheat from the chaff, so does affliction purify virtue.
—Richard Burton (1925–84) Welsh Actor
For suffering and enduring there is no remedy, but striving and doing.
—Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) Scottish Historian, Essayist
To choose a hardship for ourselves is our only defense against that hardship. This is what is meant by accepting suffering. Those who, by their very nature, can suffer completely, utterly, have an advantage. That is how we can disarm the power of suffering, make it our own creation, our own choice; submit to it. A justification for suicide.
—Cesare Pavese (1908–50) Italian Novelist, Poet, Critic, Translator
I knew that suffering did not enoble; it degraded. It made men selfish, petty and suspicious. It absorbed them in small things…it made them less than men; and I wrote ferociously that we learn resignation not by our own suffering, but by the suffering of others.
—W. Somerset Maugham (1874–1965) British Novelist, Short-Story Writer, Playwright
It is not suffering as such that is most deeply feared but suffering that degrades.
—Susan Sontag (1933–2004) American Writer, Philosopher
God washes the eyes by tears until they can behold the invisible land where tears shall come no more.
—Henry Ward Beecher (1813–87) American Clergyman, Writer
He who suffers much will know much
I would like to explain the meaning of compassion, which is often misunderstood. Genuine compassion is based not on our own projections and expectations, but rather on the rights of the other: irrespective of whether another person is a close friend or an enemy, as long as that person wishes for peace and happiness and wishes to overcome suffering, then on that basis we develop genuine concern for his or her problem. This is genuine compassion. Usually when we are concerned about a close friend, we call this compassion. This is not compassion; it is attachment. Even in marriage, those marriages that last only a short time do so because of attachment—although it is generally present—but because there is also compassion. Marriages that last only a short time do so because of a lack of compassion; there is only emotional attachment based on projection and expectation. When the only bond between close friends is attachment, then even a minor issue may cause one’s projections to change. As soon as our projections change, the attachment disappears—because that attachment was based solely on projection and expectation. It is possible to have compassion without attachment—and similarly, to have anger without hatred. Therefore we need to clarify the distinctions between compassion and attachment, and between anger and hatred. Such clarity is useful in our daily life and in our efforts towards world peace. I consider these to be basic spiritual values for the happiness of all human beings, regardless of whether one is a believer or a nonbeliever.
—The 14th Dalai Lama (b.1935) Tibetan Buddhist Religious Leader, Civil Rights Leader, Philosopher, Author
What was hard to suffer is sweet to remember.
—Seneca the Younger (Lucius Annaeus Seneca) (c.4 BCE–65 CE) Roman Stoic Philosopher, Statesman, Tragedian
You are outside life, you are above life, you have miseries which the ordinary man does not know, you exceed the normal level, and it is for this that men refuse to forgive you, you poison their peace of mind, you undermine their stability. You have irrepressible pains whose essence is to be inadaptable to any known state, indescribable in words. You have repeated and shifting pains, incurable pains, pains beyond imagining, pains which are neither of the body nor of the soul, but which partake of both. And I share your suffering, and I ask you: who dares to ration our relief? We are not going to kill ourselves just yet. In the meantime, leave us the hell alone.
—Antonin Artaud (1896–1948) French Actor, Drama Theorist