Suffering Is Optional

Have you ever admired an exquisite pearl necklace, each lustrous pearl perfect in shape and shimmering iridescence? Do you know how pearls are made? Natural pearls are created when an irritant, a grain of sand or a bit of stone, gets inside the shell of a mollusk. The mollusk reacts to the irritant by coating it with a substance to reduce the irritation. Over time, as layer upon layer is added, a pearl is formed. The source of a natural pearl is irritation. The mollusk responds to the irritation by creating something of beauty and value.

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suffering is optional

“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” ~ source unknown

How do you respond to irritations? Do you fret and fume? Stomp and swear? Do you become angry and impatient? Do you force yourself to grin and bear it? Or do you give thanks to the Divine for the lesson you are receiving? Do you search inside yourself and love the irritant? The way you respond can mean the difference between a bad attitude, a feeling of failure, ill health, or creating beauty and value in your life.

Each of us has Teachers that come into our lives at various times. Each of these Teachers brings an important lesson. And until you learn the lesson, that Teacher comes back again and again, giving you chance after chance. Until you learn the lesson, you can’t move on to the next lesson.

We often fail to recognize these Teachers, even though they are all around us. Why? They disguise themselves. Thomas Edison said that most of us don’t recognize opportunity because it shows up in work clothes. Many of us don’t recognize the teachers we bring into our lives because they dress up as mistakes, fear, guilt, resentment, pain and disease.

Most of us do all we can to avoid these teachers, and so we end up receiving the same lessons over and over. These are potentially powerful learning tools and they come to us as: Mistakes. Guilt and resentment. Pain. Disease. Fear. Addiction. Depression. Emergencies. Death.

Because they come in disguise, we sometimes don’t recognize them as the Teachers they are and we struggle with them. Why do we struggle against the Teachers, potential sources of wisdom in our lives? Maybe nobody ever told us they were Teachers; or maybe we forgot.

In our struggles against them, it is difficult for us to step back and learn the lesson. Instead of learning from these master Teachers, we label them “bad” and try to eradicate them or else we ignore them. And we miss the lessons they bring. But they don’t give up. They keep popping up – often at awkward times – to give us another opportunity to get it.

Their lessons aren’t necessarily pleasant or easy, but we need them in order to move toward a deeper and more meaningful life, because, you see, the Teachers aren’t sent . . . we bring them to us.

In most cases, the source of emotions such as frustration and anger is fear. And the antidote to fear is love. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” ~ 1 John 4:18a

It is not always easy to love your neighbor, let alone your enemy. Start by learning to love yourself. Love is unusual in that the more you give away, the more you have. Remember, love isn’t something you have, it’s something you do.

There will always be circumstances, situations, and people that you may find annoying, irritating, or scary, But by changing your perspective and the way you think about and deal with irritations, you can transform your behavior from reacting in anger and frustration to responding mindfully, with love.

That is, indeed, a pearl of great price.


Excelerated Acceptance™ – identifying and accepting the things you are struggling with — is one step in creating your Excelerated Life™, a life of flourishing and well-being, and a life of meaning, purpose, and service.

Read more about the Excelerated Life™.

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