The Necessity Of Suffering

I have been meaning to write a follow-up to Ace’s post “To feel the pain that spurs you on” “To feel the pain that spurs you on” for over a week now, but various matters intruded and kept me from it. It intrigued me for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that it explores critical difference in how men and women think- a pet issue of mine.

His post is in many respects a follow up to one he wrote almost a year ago- “That’s why I cut you just to heal you.” That post is one I also responded to, with The Misery Of Too Much Comfort. So in a way, this post is a double follow-up, in that it addresses posts both old and new.

In my old post I offered a theory as to why women these days are so quick to go out and do things that will make them suffer:

Women expect suffering in their life- it is the natural thing. [Think about the vast majority of human history- filled with suffering for pretty much everyone.] When women are too comfortable, when suffering is absent from their life, then it sends a message to their unconscious mind that something is wrong, that what they are living is an unnatural life. That message of unnaturalness will only be repeated over the years as they grow up. They will know, somewhere deep down inside, that something is wrong. Unfortunately, because this is unconscious, they won’t know what it is, exactly, that is wrong.

This will, naturally enough, lead them to feel miserable. The misery is only made worse because they won’t understand it. It will gnaw on their mind incessantly, like an itch you can’t quite reach.

I suspect that part of the reason that women act so crazy in the west today is because of this. Using that itch analogy I just mentioned- women act crazy because they are trying to scratch that itch. Only they don’t quite know how- so they do so in extreme ways. Again, deep down inside they know they should be suffering, so they go out and make themselves suffer (without every truly understanding that is what they are doing).

Ace, in his own far more concise way, offers an alternate explanation:

[W]omen use suffering (subconsciously, at least) to demonstrate resilience.

In fact, more often than not, women’s complaints are (at heart) actually backhanded boasts of how much suffering they can take.

Now, as interesting as these theories are, they aren’t the key matter I want to examine in this post. Instead, I was fascinated by this (in hindsight obvious) point Ace made:

In fairy tales, the most desirable/marriageable women

had terrible & harsh lives [“childhoods”].

This is not a coincidence but a lesson.

This got me thinking about the role that suffering plays in the rearing/raising of children. More specifically, the different roles that it plays for men and women.

You see, I think that enduring a certain amount of suffering is necessary for the healthy growth and maturity of both men and women. However, the way that the suffering should be experienced/handled is different between them.

For men, suffering should be a tool that is used to strengthen them. They should be exposed to trials and challenges and then forced to overcome those challenges. In that overcoming of obstacles they will be forced to break down the old self, the boy, and build up a new self- the man. This process is repeated over and over as a boy grows up into a man. If successful, he comes out as a strong, tested and confident man who can tackles whatever life throws his way.

For women, on the other hand, suffering is a tool that is used to remove weaknesses and flaws. While that might seem similar to what men undergo, it isn’t. They aren’t put through trials and challenges in the same way. The reason why is simple- the goal isn’t to break the girl down and then build her up as a woman. Instead, the goal is to raise her right from the beginning, and over time to wear down any and all negative traits.

Let me try to explain this further with an agricultural analogy-

For both men and women you have a field that represents them and their character. In the beginning it is sown with wheat. As they get older, however, weeds creep up throughout the field. The wheat represents ideal traits, the weeds negative traits.

For women, the way to deal with this problem is to get on your hands and knees and pull up those weeds. Start in one corner and work your way throughout the field. It will likely be necessary to double-back at some point to deal with any new weeds that sprouted in already cleared parts of the field. As a result, this is a long, continuous process that won’t end for a long, long time (until the woman is that wizened grandmother).

For men, the way to deal with this problem is to cordon off parts of the field. Then, once it is in sections, turn to the first one. Tear everything up. Leave that section as a bare field. Then plant and sow new seed. Water it. Let it grow. Remove any weeds that start to sprout. Then move to the next section, and repeat the process. Do this section by section until the whole field has been attended to.

Tying all of this back to the title of the post, I am arguing here (as I have in the past) that suffering is necessary for healthy character development of both men and women. However, the way that suffering should play out is very between between the two sexes. One of the many problems with our present age is that we have forgotten this, and all too often children are raised alike, irrespective of whether they are boys and girls. And of course, all too often their lives contain far too much comfort, and far too little suffering.

This theory has been bouncing around in my head for almost two weeks now, and I am curious what my readers think about it. Please leave your own thoughts in the comments below. Tell me where I am right, where I am wrong, and where else you think all of this can go.

 

 

 

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13 Comments

Filed under Blue Pill, Fitness Test, Men, Moral Agency, Red Pill, Sin, Temptation, Uncategorized

13 responses to “The Necessity Of Suffering

  1. Interesting topic. I think that a parent’s tendency to negate a boy’s suffering (learn to suck it up, kid) can actually work to the boy’s benefit as he becomes a man. He learns to toughen up in a way that women don’t.

  2. Abelard Lindsey

    By suffering, I assume you are talking about the effort one must put forth to accomplish any worthwhile goal. E.g. the “no pain, no gain” expression used in weight training body building. I think everyone who has actually done anything real in life knows that anything worthwhile takes a lot of worj and effort to accomplish.

    Perhaps this is not your definition of suffering. Suffering that has no relation at all to any kind of accomplish does not seem very useful to me.

  3. Tigersault

    Pretty spot on post. To echo what you said, the problem with the comfort currently attained in Western civ is that both women and men are so far removed from the struggles of the past that they most likely don’t know how to do what you said.

    If something cataclysmic would happen (CME, EMP attack, etc) so many would die so fast it’d be a question not just of physical but mental fortitude.

  4. MK

    Abe: Suffering that has no relation at all to any kind of accomplish does not seem very useful to me.

    You really should reconsider this modern viewpoint; everyone of the past knew otherwise. Suffering without accomplish builds real character; it’s almost better to have it “meaningless” for the mental toughness it builds.

    Take fasting; athletes, ancients, all the greats of the past extol it for the strength of mind and body it builds. Learning to cope with real, tangible suffering (do it too long you will die, and your body knows it and thus teaches you who’s in charge – you). Any sort of non-damaging physical suffering strengthens one’s character and builds confidence in amazing ways. That is, it builds real virtue. You’re a different person, a better person, afterward.

  5. Jonadab-the-Rechabite

    Men and women are raised with different ends in mind. A woman is raised to be a meek and quite spirit, a keeper at home, a helpmeet to her husband, an object of beauty yet chaste and modest in heart, and submissive to authority of her father then her husband. Men are raised to lead, to be protectors and providers which requires overcoming discomfort and pain. Men are to learn to love when they are unloved, to rebuke and exhort, to take responsibility for business, home and themselves and even when they are not directly accountable to stand up and take ownership and accept blame. Men must deal with harsh realities so that women are shielded from the evil of this present age. Among the most difficult of male training is the resistance to the charms of women and the white-knight impulse that seeks to comfort women over the pursuit of righteousness and justice. Adam failed here and men must be taught how to avoid being beguiled by women, even the women they love and protect (wife and daughters). Men serve as prophet, priest and king in the home, taking responsibility to sanctify its members and intercede in earnest prayer.

    That is how it is supposed to be in a Biblical Worldview, but we don’t live in a place where a Biblical worldview has much gravity even in the church, we live in Androgynyville where women are taught to be men, only without the character and sacrifice and men are taught to be women and abandon the pursuit of goodness, truth and beauty for the pleasure of women and the peace of survival in the PC jungle.

    Christians must learn to suffer as secular apostates and be hated by their culture and looked down on by the christian apostates that call themselves the church. Mark 13:13 “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” The Christian life is not a strategy for temporal blessings and comforts, it is one of trail by fire and persecution. Men and women should be taught to stand firm in Christ when the day of trail comes, to not flinch in the face of persecution and men especially taught how to care for the physical needs of his family as independently of the HR and PC overlords as possible, so that he is not forced to choose between righteousness and provision. And if faced without that choice to live by faith and stand on the truth, his wife also needs to be taught to not fret at such times but to obey her head, trust in Christ and live by faith. Suffering is not an option, avoiding suffering is not always virtue, suffering for the right things is wisdom and that begins with the fear of the Lord.

  6. Taylor

    You’re a little light on why the male analogy is tear up the field then start picking new weeds

  7. @ Abelard

    By suffering I meant any hardship, agony, etc. It was without reference to whether it was for a purpose or not.

    MK is correct that learning how to handle hardship, suffering, which has no seeming purpose can have a significant impact on our development and growth.

    @ Taylor

    You’re a little light on why the male analogy is tear up the field then start picking new weeds

    I will admit it wasn’t the best analogy. What I was trying to convey this: that for men you have to tear down what was built during boyhood and replace it with manhood.

  8. DJ

    Proverbs 22:6King James Version (KJV)

    6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

    All children have a bent, for best results treat them as individuals.Mass production methods of child raising produce less then ideal results.

    Suffering without purpose stunts growth. In life we all suffer in our own way the thing is to teach that suffering is a fact but not a limitation. When the young are taught to properly deal with challenges they grow healthy and strong. When they are pushed in the wrong way they grow twisted and less resilient.
    Don’t break a child to create the desired growth guide the child. Leave the breaking to God.

  9. To state the obvious – today, more and more women complain of suffering and hardship. Men, women, everyone, reflexively swoop in now to shield girls (and, increasingly, women) from experiencing that hardship whenever those complaints are made.

    It’s the same with boys and men though. More and more men have been feminized and expect not to suffer or experience hardship, which builds character.

    “For women, on the other hand, suffering is a tool that is used to remove weaknesses and flaws. While that might seem similar to what men undergo, it isn’t. They aren’t put through trials and challenges in the same way. The reason why is simple- the goal isn’t to break the girl down and then build her up as a woman. Instead, the goal is to raise her right from the beginning, and over time to wear down any and all negative traits.”

    Interesting. I think this ties in with what Ace said about women boasting about how much suffering they can endure. Women expect to suffer. This is why they self abuse; self medicate. They expect someone to put limits and guardrails on them. It is also why, I’ve noticed, women who have had moms and dads and adults put limits on them tend not to become cutters or addicts.

    Moving on to the main point… Be careful here. I think your view plays in to the prevailing CHurchian, Focus on the Family, et al view that “women are wonderful, women are great just the way they are, and they don’t need much in the way of teaching or training. Girls just naturally grow up to be good, moral, upstanding women ready to be wives and mothers even without training.” I don’t think you intended this though.

    Because girls need a lot of teaching and training to remove flaws. No they don’t need to be broken down and built back up. They do need to have their flaws and negative traits pointed out to them and some help in removing them.

    Without training, most girls tend to be mouthy, slovenly, lazy, disorganized, promiscuous, demanding, selfish, self absorbed and self centered. The “its all about me and my wants, needs, and desires, and to hell with everyone else” attitude that I see most often.

  10. DismalFarmer

    First of all Ace is wrong. In real fairy tales, the most desirable/marriageable woman dies a horrible and painful death after being gang-raped by ogres. This is to remind the listener that we live in a fallen and sinful world the terrors of which may be visited on anyone; our true hope is only in God. In the modernized versions of fairy tales this of course has been flipped so that those who suffer get what they “deserve” in this world and not the next. Of course this is a lie; what we all deserve in this world is the death that comes through our sin.

    Likewise the difference you note is a modern contrivance. Suffering doesn’t play any different role in the development of women and men. Read the lives of the Saints of the Church. Instead, in the modern context women and men have been trained to react differently to perceived suffering. This reaction is of course a false lie.

    Since this is a blog for Christian men, I will point out that suffering does not, in fact, break men down and then build them up again. That process is called “work”. Suffering breaks you down and then grinds you into meat paste. It is only God who builds you back up. Suffering is not a means of making ourselves more accomplished men. Again, that is called “work”. Suffering is a means of making ourselves rely not on our own accomplishments but on the grace of God. For reference read the letters of St. Paul.

    As a Catholic, I always find it odd when I end up explaining divine grace.

  11. Abelard Lindsey

    Take fasting; athletes, ancients, all the greats of the past extol it for the strength of mind and body it builds. Learning to cope with real, tangible suffering (do it too long you will die, and your body knows it and thus teaches you who’s in charge – you). Any sort of non-damaging physical suffering strengthens one’s character and builds confidence in amazing ways. That is, it builds real virtue. You’re a different person, a better person, afterward.

    I believe this is call “perseverance”.

  12. seeking knowledge

    I want to reply, first to MK (since I agree more with Abelard)…
    One of the first things one learns when researching the process of fasting is that it is only uncomfortable for the first 24 to 48 hours (assuming only water is consumed), after which the hunger goes away until the body’s stores of nutrients have been depleted. During a fast, the body takes advantage of the rest from the work of digestion, to do all sorts of healing and cellular housecleaning which leave the body physically renewed, and if the person also chooses to use the time they save by not preparing and eating food to focus on spiritual renewal, then it leads to the wonderful results for which it was extolled by the ancients.
    What I’m getting at is, the suffering itself (which is not as much as people generally believe comes from fasting) is less to thank for the benefits of fasting, than the work that can be accomplished in the process.
    (In wanting to draw the distinction between suffering and work, I have something in common with DismalFarmer, but I don’t want to give the impression that I agree with everything he said, since I don’t share some of the underlying religious sentiments he makes reference to, such as that every individual human deserves death…but I won’t go off into a tangential discussion about that unless someone else wants to, heh.)
    Anyway, I also wanted to mention that people don’t get into cutting and self-injury because they haven’t had enough pain in their lives – it’s a way to deal with emotional pain, often the result of abuse. And it’s not just women, it’s split almost half-and-half (40/60) between males and females. Here’s my source for that statistic:
    https://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/self-injury/self-injury-self-harm-statistics-and-facts/
    So, I remain skeptical of the assertion that suffering is desirable for its own sake, apart from anything that may be accomplished through it. But I do agree that anything worth accomplishing requires investment, and suffering is often involved in the process. I’m only disagreeing with the idea that any random suffering applied to a person is likely to result in positive growth. Donal said “MK is correct that learning how to handle hardship, suffering, which has no seeming purpose can have a significant impact on our development and growth.” That may sometimes be the case, but I think we should also take into account the many cases of traumatization in which suffering for no seeming purpose can cause someone’s character to take a nosedive into becoming abusive and forming part of a vicious cycle of abuse (or starting a new one). I don’t have the answer as to what comprises the perfect balance or type of suffering to achieve positive growth, but so far I’m impressed by the attachment parenting theory, and I think if a parent has a good strong bond with their children, I expect their instincts would most likely guide them into what each of their individual children needs, precisely through allowing the parent to empathize better with the child and distinguish between what suffering is accomplishing good, and what suffering is being destructive for the child.

  13. Pingback: Random Thought on Hardship/Suffering | Donal Graeme

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