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Friday, January 16, 2015

The "W" Word

"The quality of shared pain is central to what it means to be a human being.": Paul Brand

" Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional." Buddha

Each time someone tells me their story - whether in a memoir or essay, or a friend describes damage done to them - the words of Paul Brand and Buddha are reinforced for me. I'm also frequently put off, though rarely surprised, by the rush to judgment of some who listen to the same stories. In my experience, a favorite pejorative of some empathy-impaired folks is to label those who choose to share their pain as "whiners".

Clearly, some folks spend way too much time on the pity-pot. My own patience for those folks is as thin as anyone's. But equally clear is how some people seem to struggle with Buddha's distinction. To describe or write of your pain is not the same as wallowing in your suffering. Listening to people fond of the "w" word, I invariably wonder - When this person faces their inevitable pain, what will be their coping mechanism? Stoicism? Silence? Isolation? Do these methods ease or prolong that optional suffering?

Or, will the human beings quick to label others as whiners share their own pain when it inevitably arrives? What have you observed? What do you do?

2 comments:

  1. Pat, it may very well be that many people have difficulty seeing things from others' perspective. If a person hasn't experienced the sort of pain another is describing, it's easy to say they're a whiner. It requites a genuine interest in others to be empathetic or try walk a mile in their shoes.....

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    1. Lynn; Thanks for commenting. I agree it "...requires a genuine interest..." and I suppose that's where my impatience with people who quickly label others as "whiners" begins.

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