We try to shield the ones we love from all struggle and suffering. Parents especially do this for their children, trying to make their lives easier than their own. But can this become a misplaced sentiment? Is it an attempt to make ourselves feel better rather than doing something that actually helps the situation? Haven’t we all heard about the parent that shields a child from the consequences of their actions until the child becomes hardened in a self-centered way of living?Take the story of a butterfly as an example. A little boy collects a chrysalis and puts it in a jar so he can watch it hatch. As it goes from the stage of pupa to butterfly, it emerges from it chrysalis and crawls up the twig. But because the jar is too small it unsuccessfully tries to pump the fluid from its body into the wings. It just can’t do it. It doesn’t have enough room to expand its wings. They harden in their shriveled state and this butterfly will never fly.
Throughout history and across different cultures, people have long struggled and coped with immense suffering in different ways. The New York Times has a story, The Value of Suffering, that is truly thought provoking. It points out the obvious – that we all suffer – but the important point is how we choose to react to it.
Parroting platitudes like “look at the bright side” or “time heals all wounds” does little more than irritate. We can, however, take bad situations and expand or grow by looking for ways to help others, and in the process help ourselves. Never should we keep our views so small that we are afraid to say a word of comfort, give hope and extend an act of kindness. Looking for the positive in the situation, in other people and in ourselves will keep us from spiraling into bitterness and anger.
When you’re confronted with a person who is suffering from clinical depression, it requires special consideration and treatment. It would be insensitive to say, “Get over it. Buck up.” However you don’t want to be an enabler to their depression as they sink deeper and deeper. Encourage the depressed individual to seek help with a mental health professional. Or if you’re living with a depressed individual and don’t know how to cope and you live nearby, contact my Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington office and make an appointment soon. There is help available for you and your loved one.