Strength from Suffering


People who have suffered understand how compassion can be a lifeline. If you have ever felt the pangs of hunger, the embarrassment of unwanted advances or even the shock of trusted people betraying you during the most critical time—you are reading this sentence nodding in agreement. Understanding and embracing your suffering brings tremendous insight.

First of all, before I type another word–I want to extend to you genuine love. I am so very sorry for what you have endured and I pray that what you are able to gain wisdom from such suffering. From my heart, I am writing to encourage you to be even more compassionate than your oppressors. It doesn’t sound very logical does it? That sentence rings odd even as I type it—how unfair you might be thinking! I am understanding from life experience that the worst possible outcome of having suffered would be that you or I would take that pain and inflict it upon another. The cycle of pain endures for a very long time—often it builds momentum from one generation to another. The resurgence of total disregard for human life we are recently witnessing seems to be ravaging entire communities much like the recent wildfires are destroying instantaneously forestland that will be difficult to replenish.  While historians or sociologists or even psychologists can explain away why people become violent or why ideologies take on their own ferocity—the devastating outcome begets permanent destruction of families and communities. Will we be able to recover as a human race? It may be our biggest challenge as we have already witnessed the extinction of many of our animal species and the impact on our environment.

How do we reverse the impact of human suffering individually and collectively? I am not an expert on human behavior but I have witnessed and experienced a great deal in my life. I have met the most powerful and formidable of leaders and have worked alongside the forgotten of the most disenfranchised. I have felt pain, witnessed pain and unknowingly inflicted pain. As the gray hairs proliferate my forehead—I am beginning to comprehend how my individual actions may impact the wellbeing of the whole. Those who know me well understand that it is my sincere heart’s desire is to be the most compassionate, most loving, most encouraging person I can be. However it is in my moments of failure that I learn that even my best intentions must be carefully evaluated and contemplated for the greater good. What I do—matters.

You have heard the old adage “you are a product of your environment?” I have recently come to realize that all too often whether we recognize it or not—the unhealthiness, the vitriol and even the violence of our community, our state and even our nation will infiltrate our heart if we are not careful. Individual awareness and thoughtful reflection are the key. Collective dialogue and understanding will enable us to plant the vital seedlings to rebuild what was parched by fires of suffering, violence and destruction.

I want to encourage you today. No matter what you have been through, no matter what you have encountered in your life—try with all your heart NOT to become a product of your environment unless of course you live and work in a healthy place. Guard all that is healthy within you and nurture a healthy state of mind, a healthy heart and a healthy spirit. When I mention healthy, I do not necessarily mean just physically although being in good physical shape significantly contributes to one’s wellbeing but beloved friends and colleagues continually strive for emotional and spiritual wellbeing which requires real work and consistent focus. This focus and commitment is critical to your own individual health and the health of those you raise, mentor and lead.

Yes—I understand–leadership is a tough mantle to accept. All too often, I am complaining to Creator why throughout my life– I was thrust in to positions of leadership even when I was not ready?  Now–I understand my responsibility, my suffering and my transformation better.

This past year, in an effort to really make a difference, to lead with good intentions I took time to reflect. I now realize in retrospect that I cannot contribute to meaningful impact if I do not take care of my own well-being. I need to continually be aware of, reflective and responsive of my own physical, emotional and spiritual health in order to make healthy decisions, lead with a healthy mindset and to encourage others to seek and achieve their healthiest selves. Before you surmise that this all sounds so very cliché—take a moment to examine the instances where you have become your best self? Think about the times you extended a special generosity or exhibited genuine compassion to another. Did you provide an opportunity because you were once denied an opportunity? Do you ensure that those around you do not go hungry because you know the pain of an empty stomach? Are you generous with your love because you have been relinquished love and desire love for others? Think about it—be aware and be continually reflective. If you have suffered I want to encourage you to be gently strong, be genuinely loving and be kindly compassionate—those are not signs of weakness—they will be your greatest strengths and greatest contribution to your family, community and the human race.

Today as I look out across the mountains and see the smoke from the wildland fires dissipating I seek understanding about human suffering. I want to encourage you to draw from the well of your own suffering and pull up a huge bucket of grace. Extinguish the fires of hatred, animosity and pain with the everlasting streams of love and compassion.  Do it individually or encourage it collectively. Shower compassion on your family, on your community and on your workplace. Transform your suffering in to generosity. In that moment, in that precise transition you will find your own healing, you will discover your greatest strength—you will enjoy peace. I promise you–any injustice you have endured will heal with your genuine gift of compassion, forgiveness and love for others.

Be encouraged,

Elizabeth Asahi Rising Sun Sato #risetoexcellence



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