Sunday’s Wisdom #438: Suffering Value

“What is victory, then, if one hasn’t suffered?”
– Master Asia, Mobile Fighter G Gundam
Episode 45, “Farewell, Master: Master Asia’s Last Breath”

This is one of those times where I want to leave behind completely what the character means to say, and the circumstances in which he says it. For today, at least, I want to talk about what they mean to me, personally.

I’m not exactly keen on suffering in any way unless one absolutely must for whatever reason. I know very well the temptation of taking the easier route, and I can say from experience that it always bites us in the butt sooner or later. I also know the frustration of putting a great deal of time, effort, sweat, and pain into some endeavor that is ultimately pointless and without reward. Neither of these approaches are things to aspire to. Nor is a third approach, which aspires to a fantasy that is most seductive and destructive: that of trying to live as if in a dream of prolonged pleasure, as if any happiness, joy, or satisfaction could truly be found in being eternally drunk, so to speak.

I recall another quote which I do not know the source of, only that it was written by Robert Heinlein, which speaks of the folly of giving everyone in a race the prize for first place. It’s a hollow, empty, even degrading gesture, unearned and without any real accomplishment for the recipient to take pride in, and it diminishes the value of the prize itself. It is a far happier thing to receive the prize which one earns.

It stretches further and further than this one example, of course.

A person who is fed without earning it takes the food for granted, for instance, while one who works hard for it has the satisfaction of humble gratitude for the food. One who can get their food at the store, in a similar vein, takes for granted that food will always be there, and may even carry some disparaging views toward the farmers who produce said food. Yet the farmer knows what goes into producing their food and is grateful for every well-earned bite.

People who inherit wealth, or gain it by gambling, may not value it properly, but those who earn and build their fortune within their own lives may still recall what a magnificent blessing their fortune is. Provided they aren’t too busy comparing themselves to people who have more than they do, that is.

As humans, we keep wanting to be freed from our problems, delivered from our hardships and sorrows and all manner of situations which break us, over and over. But there is value in these things. There is value in what we suffer and what we lose, and especially in what we choose to do when we feel trapped in our lives. We may want to be taken out of our difficulties, but what we really need is to get through them. That is what gives value to the prize we earn, on a personal level.

The greatest victories are those which are earned, bought and paid for with the currency of one’s pain.

Who’s going to value any given thing more, the person who pours their blood, sweat, tears, heart, and soul into it, or the person who can just magically wave their hands and *poof* there it is?

Who values their strength and athleticism more, the ones who halfway kill themselves in training, or the ones who take steroids?

Who values their grades more, the cheater or the one who studied?

Who values victory more, those who sit back and watch, or those who bring it about with their own hands?

Who values the state of a country more, the man who runs it or the soldier who bled for it?

And so it goes.

Pain, of various kinds, is the currency of value.

Thus, I wish everyone a Happy Easter, as I strive to remember my own value in the eyes of One who suffered everything for me.

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