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No one escapes life without pain and disappointment. This is the first noble truth Buddha taught. Life is pain. Life is suffering.

I look around me. Every person I know has had pain — physical pain and emotional pain. The death of a child. A chronic illness. Loss of a mate. Loss of a parent. Affairs. Lost jobs. Divorce. Problems with friends. Financial problems. Betrayals. Law-suits. A difficult child. Alcohol problems. Issues with drugs. Car accidents. Broken bones. Cancer. Infertility. In-law problems. Problems with aging parents. I could fill several books with my friends’ sufferings and ten more with some of the sufferings my clients have had to endure.

Life doesn’t provide us with only big hurts; it also gives us plenty of little thumps and bumps along the way. For example: A child won’t cooperate and do his homework; the toilet stops up; the electrician doesn’t come when you’ve taken off work; your fourteen-year-old “borrows” the family car; your mother is overly critical; a mate rejects you sexually; the refrigerator breaks down; the hot water heater goes out; a friend burns a hole in your furniture and pretends she didn’t do it. This is life.

Some months, some years are better. I sometimes think, “This is good. Everything is fine, only a little suffering these last few months.”

When pain comes into your life, how do you deal with it? Do you get angry? Cry? Withdraw and feel depressed? Put one foot in front of the other and keep on marching? Focus on something new? Obsess and think, “Why me?” and “It’s not fair.” Do you look for insight in reading and talking with others? Do you ask God for help? Do you work with a therapist? Do you push the sadness away by refusing to think about it?

How you deal with your pain is what makes the difference. How you deal with it is what makes you greater or lesser. It makes you the person you are and can become.

Doris Wild Helmering, “The Neighborhood Counselor”

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