Taking on Suffering

What do you do when you see someone in pain?

Can you feel their suffering so deeply that you want to change it, take it away from them or maybe even suffer with them?

Do you feel like you have to help them change their experience or pray for things to be different for them?

Do you see all the suffering in the world and wish it would all just go away so everybody can be happy?

This is common experience for many of us. We hear about a plight or challenge that someone is experiencing. We feel their pain, their suffering, their fear and sadness. We worry for them, we feel sad for them and we try to figure out how to change their situation.

Someone hears about a family member’s illness and begins worrying about it, feeling bad for them and trying to figure out what to do about it, what to do to change it. Another person hears about her friend that is an illegal immigrant who is worrying about her future since the election. She starts to worry about her friend’s situation, feels bad for her and tries to figure out what to do about it. Someone else sees ┬áviolence on the news and feels sad for the people involved, worries about them and thinks about what he can do to help. Essentially, we take on the suffering of the other person. When the challenge and pain are not ours, we take it on anyway.

Isn’t that what compassion is?

If you’re reading this post, you’re probably ready for a new way to look at compassion. Ask yourself the following:

When did we decide that someone else’s suffering or difficult experience wasn’t ok?

When did we decide that someone else’s life wasn’t acceptable?

When did we decide that what someone else was experiencing was wrong and needed to be changed?

In spiritual circles and even mainstream society, we’re constantly bombarded with messages like this:

“Let’s take on these global issues together.”

“Their suffering is our suffering.”

“Someone’s child is everyone’s child.”

“If we take on these issues ourselves, we can change the world.”

Are these messages really true? Are everyone else’s problems and issues really our own? Is that really what compassion is?

I have a different perspective: The real way we can help is to liberate ourselves and let go of what is NOT ours.

This runs counter to all that we have been taught about being kind, compassionate people. We learn that in order to be good people, we must take on all the suffering we see in the world. If someone is suffering, it must be our problem to fix. Only we have the solution. Only we know what’s best for someone else. We must take it on ourselves.

Here’s my advice: Let it go. Let it all go. That suffering is not yours. You are not doing anyone any favors by taking their pain on yourself.

Many of us are highly sensitive, empathic people. We can feel other’s pain and suffering very deeply. It can often feel like our own. Sometimes, because we feel so deeply and have such big, open hearts, we automatically take others pain on ourselves without stopping to consider why we are doing that. We don’t stop to see if what we’re doing is actually helpful. It’s just what we’ve always done.

Consider this: Everyone is experiencing what they are experiencing because that’s what, at a soul level, they want to be experiencing. Poverty, violence, war, illness and other challenges are all things that the soul chooses to experience as part of it’s evolution. The soul loves to know itself by participating in all aspects of life on earth. From the soul level, there is never any judgment of these experiences as good or bad. There are no victims, only a soul having an experience.

When we judge someone else’s suffering as wrong, we are actually pitying them. We are saying that what they are experiencing is bad. We are saying that they should be different, that their life should be different.

Why do we do that?

Why do we believe we know what’s best for someone else?

When has pity ever been helpful?

This was a challenge for me in the process of awakening, to realize what was my own pain and suffering and what I had taken on for others. I took it on not because they had asked me to, but because I had decided that their pain wasn’t ok. I deeply felt the suffering of my family members, judged it as not acceptable, and took it on myself in an attempt to relieve them of their burden. This did not work. There were now two people suffering, instead of just one. This solved nothing. I didn’t realize that they were creators and souled beings themselves, and therefore, choosing all their life challenges, even the pain and suffering. I thought I knew what was best for them.

I eventually learned to release what wasn’t mine, and I’ll be honest, most of what was in my life wasn’t my own. It was like I enjoyed being a martyr, this person who took the world’s pain on their shoulders and carried it as a testament to how good I was. Some part of me reveled in that experience. It was an identity. But eventually, I got tired of doing it. The burdens became too great. It was time to move on to a new experience, an experience of living for myself, and more importantly, seeing things as they really are.

The true definition of compassion is not taking on another person’s pain or judging it as bad. It is the acceptance of that person’s experience as their own soul creation and honoring it, knowing that they are choosing it. That soul will create a new experience when and only when they are ready to change it, when they are ready to experience something new. It’s not your job, nor your responsibility to change someone else’s reality for them. There’s no need to. Deep down, they don’t want you to anyway. It’s all in perfection. You are the only person you are responsible for.

Doesn’t that feel so much better?

Can you feel those burdens you’ve taken on begin to release?

Do you feel a lot lighter?

That is the beginning of freedom.

Now, don’t judge yourself if you’ve been taking on other’s suffering. It is an experience in itself that the soul enjoys having. It was appropriate for you before but when you’re ready, you can begin to let it go. When you’re ready to find your freedom, you have to let go of what is not yours.

What you CAN do that is truly helpful to others is to change your own experience. Free yourself from suffering. Then you can be a shining beacon of light, reminding people that there is a way out when they are ready. We may all come from the same source but we are not “all one.” Each of us is a unique individual soul that evolves on it’s own, choosing it’s own experiences and challenges to meet it’s needs for growth and evolution.

I’m not saying you have to stop helping people or caring for others. You can help other people, but do it from a place of honor and true compassion, not pity. You can help others if you desire to, but you don’t need to take their pain and suffering on for them, it’s not helpful. You can help and assist from a place of neutrality and respect for the challenge that person has chosen to experience. You can be a support rather than a judge.

Next time you see suffering around you, whether it’s global or that of family members and loved ones, remember, that pain is not yours, you don’t have to take it on. Instead, honor the brave soul who has chosen that experience and see inside to who they really are, the creator of everything in their life, just as you are.

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