Why We Suffer And What We Can Do About It

Life is not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s the way it is. The way you
cope with it is what makes the difference.
– Virginia Satir

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.
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theologian and writer (1906-1945)

Putting these two quotations together I’m tempted to believe that how we
cope with the bad things in life is to suffer them. Sure enough, that’s
what most of us do. If we don’t die in the midst of our suffering,
conditions change and life gets better. Sometimes it takes longer than
others and some don’t live long enough to enjoy the coming good times,
but it’s safe saying its a rule that life always gets better a some time
after the worst of its bad times.

Why do we suffer? Because we don’t have the skills and knowledge about
how to cope more effectively. If we had the skills and knowledge, we
could busy ourselves working our way out of the messes we find ourselves
in.

Simply knowing that life always gets better eventually after a bad
period is a good beginning toward giving people the motivation to endure
the hardships of the bad times in order to eventually reach the good
ones. That’s an extremely important life skill. Most of us were never
taught that as children or adolescents. If we learned that lesson, it
was the hard way for most.

Knowing that every life has downturns is another very important fact
about life. Everyone has them. Everyone has bad times several times a
year. How bad they are, how long they last and how our life changes as a
result of them may be determined by coincidence. Some might call it fate
or bad luck, but it’s more often coincidence of conditions that results
in downturns.

Sure, many of them may be attributed to ourselves. We make bad decisions
and suffer the consequences. Yet it’s not as simple as that. Seldom is a
bad decision all bad. We learn from our mistakes. The more we learn, the
wiser we become. Therefore the more bad decisions we make the more we
have to learn with a personal experience base. That’s the most common
way we learn about life. Not the best way, but the most common.

Of course we all shouldn’t go about making mistakes just so we can learn
from them. We could be taught, as children, about how to avoid making
many major life mistakes.

When do we teach our children about life mistakes they may face? Usually
when they are in their teen years, when they no longer want advice from
us and aren’t likely to accept it. That’s too late.

Children form their major concepts of life during their first ten years.
After that it’s hard to break into that core of being to tinker with the
fundamentals and make changes. In general, every major lesson about life
should be taught to children before they reach their tenth birthday.

When each one gets taught may be a matter for debate, but by age eleven
they have almost passed the stage of being able to internalize life
lessons and reformulate their life concepts other than through the ones
they experience themselves. In other words, by their tenth birthday they
are ready to ignore all advice and make their own mistakes, whether they
realize it or not.

Most adults seem to think that children younger than ten years are too
young to learn about the grisly facts of life. Those adults are wrong
and their children pay a great penalty for the ignorance of their
parents. The kids, inevitably, make more mistakes in life than they need
to make. And they suffer more, needlessly. Because their parents just
plain didn’t know.

Strangely, the most important job in life is parenting, yet we hand it
over to those least knowledgeable and skilled to handle it. By the time
most young adults have learned about the developmental stages of the
lives of their children, the kids are beyond age ten and it’s too late
for the parents to do anything to make major differences. The kids have
already learned by the examples set (as role models) of their parents.
The very same parents who had no idea that their kids were learning so
much from them when they were so very young.

Children learn the most important life lessons through teaching in their
first decade of life. After that it’s just fine tuning. And learning
from their own mistakes.

Hard to believe those little guys are forming such grand concepts of
life when they can barely write and they don’t know much math or
geography or science, isn’t it? That’s the way life works. It’s the way
it works for every species of mammal on earth. Every other animal learns
those life lessons early or they become lunch for a predator. If we
don’t learn them in time, we suffer for many decades afterward. We
usually don’t die, we just suffer.

As the 1960s song by Crosby, Stills and Nash said, “Teach your children
well.” And teach them young. Don’t keep then “innocent.” An innocent
child becomes and ignorant adult. Look around you to see the results of
so many families who kept their children “innocent.”

Life eats the innocent for lunch.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social
Problems
, a book about what, how and when to teach young children the
important lessons of life that schools don’t teach and many parents
miss.
Learn more at http://billallin.com 
Contact Bill Allin directly at http://www.contactify.com/d012d
The book’s an excellent gift for your grown children who have young children
or will soon. Pretty good for older parents to learn what they missed
too.

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