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A Clarification about Suffering: Resignation vs. Acceptance

In my previous post, I discussed the importance of accepting the fact that an inescapable reality of life is that we suffer. I am not endorsing that we should just throw in the towel and give up when confronted with challenges and suffering. We should not just say to ourselves, “Ah, this is my lot in life…to endure this terrible suffering.” That is what I would call resignation. In psychology, this type of resignation is sometimes referred to as learned helplessness. Learned helplessness is said to occur when we give up in the face of adversity because we don’t believe that our efforts make a difference when, in fact, they still can. This type of thinking can often lead to feelings of depression.

When our efforts can make a difference, by all means, I think that we should try! There are usually ways to avoid or escape many types of suffering. For example, we cannot stop the aging process. Maybe someday science will even solve that riddle, but I don’t believe that it’s going to happen in my lifetime. What we can control is how we take care of our bodies. We can exercise, eat healthy foods, get plenty of sleep, put in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, etc. So, we control what we can and learn to accept the things that we cannot control because fighting against that which we cannot control does absolutely no good. Yelling at the sky will not stop it from raining. In fact, it is harmful to our bodies to be chronically emotionally distressed. Thus, being distressed about growing older, ironically, will cause our bodies to more susceptible to illness, disease, and the ravages of time.

Control the controllables. Try to influence variables that legitimately can be affected by our actions. And know that there is tremendous power in accepting the fact that we cannot control some things. It is liberating, not damning.

1 Comment

  1. Ryan

    The efforts that I put in to try and change a situation that is unnacceptable leaves myself in a state of helplessness. This happens when there is a problem that does not require any effort on my behalf to solve. Accepting the things that will just be, the things. that are facts of life will continue to happen around. I must accept those things which I cannot change and change the way I act if it “feels” unnacceptable. Change the dang thing which is unacceptable. Resignation in my mind goes to a work related term that the current situation or conditions of the workp.lace can’t be accepted,therefore I resign. Accepting the fact that there things I can accept as the are and knowing is liberating and there are things I can resign from or pull away from and move on to accepting new life terms. With resignation, there comes new territory ahead to accept. The habit of resignation is unhealthy. There are always things to accept anywhere and everywhere that I go. Acceptance is a virtous principle to learn and practice. On the other hand, resignation in my experience leads to more unnacceptance and more circumstances that I can’t control.

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