What does running a marathon, having a child, pursuing your dreams, a great family life, success, and love have in common? Pain and sacrifice.
I do not believe this life is about the avoidance of pain and the pursuit of pleasure. However, this is a philosophy that governs the majority of the western world. Many people are not willing to sacrifice for perfectly right pursuits. They say they want something but we live in a world where sacrifice is no longer prominent. This life is not about creating heaven on Earth, our own personal bliss. Millions of people pursue this end, no one has achieved it. Jack Higgens, author of such successful novels as The Eagle Has Landed, was asked what he would like to have known as a boy. His answer: “That when you get to the top, there’s nothing there.”
Boris Becker had won Wimbledon twice, he was rich and had all the material possessions he could ever imagine. On the brink of suicide he said “I have no inner peace. I am a puppet on a string.” Boris was merely being tossed to-and-fro by his pursuit of pleasure.
Boris Becker, winner of Wimbledon at the age of 17.
I believe that this life is about endurance but our desire for joy everlasting should not be tossed away. Indeed we must consider why we have this unending desire for joy in a temporal world, but that is a discussion for another time.
The endurance of pain is so important in this life because we must endure every day, not only physical pain, but also emotional and mental. When we have to sit in traffic day after day we have a choice: endure well or complain and try to escape. Escape is futile. The pain is the reality and the moment you accept that is the moment that you’ll realize that the pain is bearable.
We wonder why so many people seem to live below their own expectations. Could it be that we have become how we are because we are not willing to endure? Do we not get the grades we aim for, or the career we want, because we would rather pursue momentary pleasure? Maybe not even pleasure, simply the relief of pain?
We wonder why we don’t win more battles. Is it because we are not willing to take the pain? To endure well? Is it because at the core of our society we believe that this life is all there is and it should be spent on the pursuit of momentary, temporal pleasure? One thing I am sure of: anyone who has done anything great with their lives has had to endure, and conquer, incredible pain. No exceptions.
Nelson Mandela served as the President of the African National Congress fighting against the legacy of apartheid by tackling institutionalised racism. He helped millions. Mandela also spent 27 years in jail on a charge of public protest, a charge which was demanded to be acquitted by the United Nations and World Peace Council. Can you imagine that pain? Mandela endured well, he spent his time in jail equipping himself for the feats which will be forever cherished in history.
Nelson Mandela, a man of incredible joy, enduring incredible pain.
No one has achieved anything great without pain and sacrifice. Until we realize the avoidance of pain is not something to be pursued we will continue to fail in many respects. I implore you to live outside of your comfort zone, expand your idea of what you can tolerate. Endure well. If we do, we may just achieve our goals, improve our family lives, and learn to love well.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela