What Good Is Suffering?

Vista View of Valley With Clouds

” . . . in no way is suffering necessary to find meaning . . . meaning is possible even in spite of suffering–provided the suffering is unavoidable.  If it were avoidable, however, the meaningful thing to do would be to remove its cause . . . to suffer unnecessarily is masochistic rather than heroic.”

“. . . Once, an elderly general practitioner consulted me because of his severe depression.  He could not overcome the loss of his wife who had died two years before and whom he had loved above all else.”

“Now, how could I help him?  What should I tell him?  Well, I refrained from telling him anything but instead confronted him with the question, ‘What would have happened, Doctor, if you had died first, and your wife would have had to survive you?’ ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘for her this would have been terrible;  how she would have suffered!’  Whereupon I replied, ‘You see, Doctor, such a suffering has been spared her, and it was you who have spared her this suffering–to be sure, at the price that now you have to survive and mourn her.’  He said no word but shook my hand and calmly left my office.”

“In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”

Viktor E. Frankl from his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’

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