A news show I was listening to proposed the idea that the nation needs a particular candidate as president because he knows loss and pain. Perhaps I misunderstood what they meant, but I don’t think this is correct. By all means, we need leaders who struggled in life and have suffered, but that is not enough. While we all suffer different degrees of stress and anxiety in life, we don’t need a consoler-in chief; we need someone who can help bring us together. This cannot be achieved by someone reminding us of what pain and suffering is like, leaders who envision what the triumph over suffering will be like for all of us are the ones who can unite us.
No one can achieve a life without pain and suffering. We all will endure difficulties. Some will thrive, while others will struggle mightily with obstacles and challenges. Facing things that break our hearts and make us fearful and uncomfortable is part of the human condition. But I don’t believe having a long litany of suffering should be the most important qualification for leadership. This can lead us all into feeling victimized or hopeless about the human condition. It is much better to have leaders who experienced pain but have moved through their suffering to find resurrection. They have known down times but can help us appreciate and understand what good times are like.
I wish I had done a better job with this when I was raising my kids. Like so many parents, I tried like hell to eliminate pain and suffering from their’ lives. Predictably, I failed, for my own bouts with depression, my career ambitions and the demise of my marriage to their mother brought about changes they were ill equipped to face. In retrospect, I can see that my attempts to keep them from suffering deprived them of the knowledge of dealing constructively with life’s struggles.
It was selfish of me to try keeping them from suffering pain. My motivation was to avoid any future pain I would suffer watching them struggle with their lives.
The lessons we have all had to learn the hard way
1) Nothing is permanent. No matter how hard we try we cannot prevent change from happening.
2) Loss is a natural part of life. “Shit happens”, as the saying goes, but so does redemption. Loss and change can strengthen us and help us evolve.
3) We can never return to how things were. A butterfly cannot go back into the cocoon and become a caterpillar. A chick cannot return into the egg it came from. Our growth and expansion involved some pain, but it was for the better. This is true for human beings, organizations and countries.
4) Life is not linear. The cycle of pain and joy is unpredictable, so we need to learn not rely on one more than the other, for we control so little in life. The best approach is to remain calm, clear-headed, open-minded and ready to take action aligned with our truest self as we know it.
5) It is important to find mentors. It is tempting to wallow in pain when facing hard times. Getting to the other side of pain calmly does not come naturally, therefore, it is important to have models who can teach us how to persevere from their own example.
The secret to life is in accepting what is happening to us knowing we possess the tools to transform these events into something of value. As we approach the time to select our leaders, we should look for those who have managed their pain and developed their heart, compassion, courage, generosity and determination and can help us come together to create better times for our communities, nation and our world.
Benjamin Franklin gave a pretty good reason for this when he said;
“We must, indeed all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
A little morbid, I know, but the point is clear, we need leaders who will help us all come together, or we have nothing. Just reminding us of what it feels like to hurt is not enough.
Remember, your life will become even more wonderful when you start paying gratitude forward!