I Don’t Need to Suffer to Be of Service

The following italicized excerpt is from Micheal Neill, one of the coaching mentors I most treasure, and taken from his February 13, 2012 newsletter.

I can see that life was unfolding before I was born and will continue to do so long after I’m gone. And that while I have a role to play, I’m not the star of this particular movie. Which is a huge and blessed relief, because it means I can just relax and enjoy my life as best I know how to do.

I don’t need to suffer to be of service – in fact, over time it’s the one thing sure to stop me. Suffer long enough and you begin to shield your eyes from the suffering of others. 

In fact, the simple but paradoxical rule of thumb seems to be this:

The more I enjoy my life, the more compassion I feel for the suffering of others.

Have fun, learn heaps, and be kind – to yourself and to everyone else!

Read more at Micheal Neill’s website.

The above letter provokes me into thought, prayer and conversation about a theme that I am working out “with fear and trembling” (that’s old-fashioned King James biblical language, not literal fear).  The crux of the complicated wrestling:

How can it be that so much of Christian thought and effort seems to be attached to suffering and sacrifice?

Where is this damaging preoccupation manifest today among conservative AND liberal notions of bearing the cross?

What does it look like to prosper in joyful growth, service and community with the humility of the Gospel (laid out in the Sermon on the Mount)?

My clients, students and I are working this out together.  Because the notion that enjoying this life is a betrayal of the Gospel or necessarily a block to the outpouring of compassion and justice has damaged countless precious lives and distorted the integrity of our worshipful offerings.  The cost, in terms of Biblical self-care, is that we risk false and prideful sacrifice rather than the “living sacrifice” which we see in Romans 12.  And, that we fail to make “every thought captive to Christ” by savoring the gifts of this world: loving relationships with self and others, nature, collaborations of all kinds, music and art and all sensory embodied experiences.  Being with others’ joy and pain in graced silence.  And so much more.  And, the time to truly know all these.

Thanks for being on this journey with me, and with provocative mentors and conversations like Michael.

Peace and love,

Jacki

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