Tag Archives: understanding

The Humility That Is Found In Suffering 

“There is no growth without change, no change without loss and no loss without pain.”Samuel Chand

One of the most painful, yet ultimately liberating, lessons I have learnt since being ill long term, is the potential suffering has it has to bring far more humility and compassion for others into our lives. 

Anyone who has suffered from any debilitating chronic illness, a life changing disease or injury, or has gone through a season of suffering due to the loss of a family member, or other traumatic events, will tell you that it truly humbled them in a way normal life never can.

When things go wrong in our lives we crave to have normality back – as if it’s the most precious gift of all. We fondly remember how much easier life was, even on the ‘tough normal days,’ when we had our health or loved one and life was going ok.

But when you have faced some kind of personal tragedy, or some kind of deep suffering barges its way into your life, you soon learn how hard it is to lose what you perhaps took for granted before hand. You discover how much your confidence and coping mechanisms get crushed.

It is often only in suffering that we truly learn who we really are. We become more aware than ever of our many personal frailties and weaknesses. 

We wonder if we truly have the strength to make it through. 

It’s usually only when we see what ‘rock bottom’ truly looks like for ourselves, in all it’s darkness, pain and desolation, that we begin to understand how ‘rock bottom’ looks and feels for others. 


When you meet people who have faced suffering like you, or even differently, but in a similar light to you, there is a knowing look shared between your eyes when you meet, or a deeper message running through the words when you talk. There is a heart connection that silently says, ‘Yes, I know…. life is so very tough sometimes…. I know what it’s like to be completely broken…. and I know what it’s like when you have no idea about what you are going to do make it through.’

“The beauty of humanity is that suffering can, if we let it, unite and draw us together in a way that nothing else can. It strips us of our titles and crafted exteriors and touches the heart. It has the power to break through masks, if we let it, because it touches who we really are.

And we all need that:
 Sometimes our hearts need to be exposed. 
Our weaknesses need to be seen. 

Because it is then we realise that we are ALL just fragile humans. It is then we realise that we are ALL more similar than maybe we thought. It is then we know that we ALL face challenges and we ALL feel pain.”

I penned those words in one of the first blog posts that I crafted a year after we lost my Mum. It was a time of processing my thoughts and emotions, whilst trying to connect with others. Thankfully, I had already taken the time to walk myself through that difficult, but rewarding process of increased self-understanding, a few days before I embarked on my next, even bigger, encounter with pain and life changing suffering. I fell from a ladder and sustained a debilitating spinal CSF Leak that I still have today over two and a half years later.

It has been through this more recent journey, that has included walking through a different type of grief, that has taken me so much deeper into those same truths I wrote about then. Suffering does touch our hearts profoundly, it reaches to the core of our being. It strips back all the trappings of everyday life and reveals to us the things that really matter. Masks and pretence are thrown away, as we are pulled out of our comfort zones and realise that we cannot do this alone. Those of us who once considered ourselves rather strong and able, suddenly find that we are, in reality, far weaker than we ever imagined.

….. And it is truly humbling.

But that is why there are elements of suffering that we can also embrace, because often it makes us kinder and more compassionate people in the end. It stops us being so judgmental of others – it can actually level the playing field of life – as we truly see that we are ‘ALL just fragile humans.’ 

“In his delightful little book ‘Off the Sauce’, Lewis Meyer writes: If one could use only one word to describe the feeling of an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meeting, it would be love. Love is the only word I know that encompasses friendship, understanding, sympathy, empathy, kindness, honesty, pride, and humility. The kind of love I mean is the kind Jesus had in mind when he said, “Love one another.” Shoes might be shed, attention might be diverted, but there is a closeness between AAs, a closeness you seldom find anywhere. It is the only place I know where status means nothing. Nobody fools anybody else. Everyone is here because he or she made a slobbering mess of his or her life and is trying to put the pieces back together again. First things are first here…. I have attended thousands of church meetings, lodge meetings, brotherhood meetings—yet I have never found the kind of love I find at AA. For one small hour the high and mighty descend and the lowly rise. The leveling that results is what people mean when they use the word brotherhood.”

I read these words recently in a wonderful book by Brennan Manning called Abba’s Child, The Cry Of The Heart For Intimate Belonging.’ They are such challenging words to us all. A profound reminder that it is only in the deeply humbling experience of coming to the end of ourselves, and truly realising how weak, broken, messed up, selfish, dysfunctional and ‘not good enough’ we ALL are, in our own ways, and being real and open about it to others. That it brings the ‘levelling’ that is desperately needed to show the deepest love, grace and humility to others too.

When you know the dark reality of ‘reaching the end of yourself’ you do find that ‘we are all more similar than we think.’ We are ALL humans who have weaknesses and insecurities, which become increasingly obvious when we are faced with an extremely difficult season of suffering.

Suffering exposes our many weaknesses, it makes us feel awkward and uncomfortable and can fill us with shame when we shockingly find that we lacked the ability to cope as we thought we should. But sometimes we must simply let it do its work in us. To embrace, rather than run from what it discovers, then face it, be real about it and look at what we can learn and how we can change. This is always the start of a deeper transformation that will make us kinder, more accepting and loving people.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”James Baldwin

Do you not love the idea of a world where ‘status means nothing’ and nobody is trying to ‘fool anyone’ anymore with their masks, carefully crafted exteriors and pretence? When we are aware, honest and humble about our weaknesses as well as strengths, so that we can be kind and compassionate about an other’s as well.

“If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.” – The Bible*

Suffering helps us to see that maybe we were not quite as strong, good or important as we maybe once thought. It helps us to acknowledge and see our weaknesses – if we embrace it properly. Which will, in turn, hopefully take us on a new journey of self awareness. We then find that we have to accept the reality of where we are. Even with its many difficult and uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, as well as its multitude of insecurities and unknowns.

So that even in the midst of it we begin to see that even when we have hit rock bottom, it is not always such a bad thing to experience. Because then I will taste a bit more of that unique humility that is found there, I will know what it’s like to battle darkness face on. I might walk with a new limp where suffering took me down for a while. But ultimately I managed to get up and carry on regardless, even when the scars and wounds are still there.

It’s in the raw vulnerability of those real moments, when we can reach out our hand to another, and our eyes and words will meet in that place of unspoken heart to heart understanding. And it’s there we will find we can walk together through our storms; as equally broken, yet ironically stronger, kinder and wiser humans.

Until one day we find how much it has changed us. 

And that is the moment we truly begin to see the wonder, humility and connection that can come from suffering…

… but only IF…

We choose to let it do it’s mysterious work deep within us, by finding the resolve keep seeing the beauty that still resides in its very painful midst.

“The beauty of humanity is that suffering can, if we let it, unite and draw us together in a way that nothing else can. It strips us of our titles and crafted exteriors and touches the heart.”


*Bible Verse from Galatians 6:3 NIV

For links to posts mentioned above and quoted: ‘A Year Ago Today: A Journey Through Grief And What I Have Learnt.’  and more about my Spinal CSF Leak: Living with A Spinal CSF Leak

Here is a short video that raises awareness of Spinal Fluid Leaks.

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Breaking Down The Walls Between Us

“So we can hate each other and fear each other
We can build these walls between each other
Blow by blow and brick by brick
Keep yourself locked in

Maybe we should love somebody
Maybe we could care a little more
Living for love, unafraid of the end
Forgiveness is the only real revenge

So we can heal each other and fill each other
We can break these walls between each other
Blow by blow and brick by brick
Keep yourself open.”

(Taken from the lyrics of Holy War by Alicia Keys)

Do you ever feel misunderstood? Those days and moments when somebody decides they think they know who you are, but you know that what they are saying and how they are acting shows that they don’t have a clue who you REALLY are?

Now let’s reverse the question.

Do you ever misunderstand others? You decide that you think you know who someone is and why they say and do what they do. But perhaps over time you realise that you totally ‘missed it’ and you didn’t or don’t have a clue who they REALLY are.

We can ALL make a lot of assumptions.
We hate being judged.
And yet we are guilty of judging.
Of assuming that we know.
When in fact we really don’t.

“Instead of condemning people, let’s try to understand them. Let’s try & figure out why they do what they do.” – Dale Carnegie

We live in a world of barriers and brick walls. We can build our little fortresses to protect us and ours and in protecting ourselves we can end up ‘locked in’ rather than ‘open’.

That is why I love the lyrics above (that I have edited) to Alicia Keys’ song Holy War. The song highlights how we have built so many walls between one another.

Walls of pride: My way is the best way.
Walls of hate: I don’t like who you are and what you do.
Walls of fear: Our differences scare and distress me.
Walls of hurt: Somebody hurt me and you might too.
Walls of misunderstanding: I don’t want to listen to you.
Walls of stereotypes: I already know who you are.
Walls of differences: Look at all the ways we are different.
Walls of revenge: If you treat me and mine badly I will treat you and yours badly.

And yet the more we lock ourselves into our places of safety, the worse it all gets. Our perspective becomes tunneled. Skewed by our own limited view. We don’t attempt to understand. We assume we already know.

But the trouble is, usually we DON’T KNOW!

from darknessI LOVE diversity. I have spent all my life with such a diversity of different people. People from different cultures, countries, ethnic groupings, social groupings, sexual orientation, different backgrounds, different faiths, different colours, super intelligent or with learning difficulties, the able bodied, disabled, chronically and terminally ill.

And I LOVE it!

I wouldn’t want to live any other way. I want to live, learn and grow all my life and I can only do that by opening up mine and my families life to diversity and difference. I would honestly get so bored only spending time with people like me! I need change and difference to help challenge, inspire and shape me.

I need YOU to make me a better ME!

I want my level of exposure to keep growing. To meet more people. To understand more about why YOU do and say what you do, and for you to learn why I say and do what I do.

“Instead of condemning people, let’s try to understand them. Let’s try & figure out why they do what they do.” – Dale Carnegie

This is one of the reasons I LOVE watching documentaries and reading books about other people’s REAL life journeys, battles, challenges and victories. It opens my mind and enlarges my perspective.

It helps me to be a better human.

I want to understand why people do what they do. Because it helps me to show empathy and love to others more. As well as helping me to understand myself more. It opens my heart and expands my mind.

Perhaps we are ALL more similar than we think.

The lyrics I’ve shared above help to paint a picture of why I believe we ALL need one another. To inspire us to spend more time with, and listening to, a diversity of other people. Bringing love and understanding to our conversations and choosing to learn more about each other’s perspectives. So that TOGETHER we can make the world a better place. It tear’s down all the walls and barriers of ignorance and fear that exist between us all. It is there that we realise we perhaps didn’t know quite as much as once thought we did.

The more I get to know people that at first seem very different from me. The more I realise that we have a lot more in common than we might at first think.

We are ALL human and we all live in this world TOGETHER!

It’s in that place that we learn that we can’t really hide away from the world, instead we all have to live and be here. You and me are stuck on this earth TOGETHER, whether we like it or not! And these days I am grateful that our world is a lot more mixed up than it once was. It brings so many more opportunities.

So instead of hiding maybe we could learn how to be more open. To reach out to others with open ears, hearts and minds. Ready to listen and learn. Ready to be challenged and changed.

Ready to be more human.

Ready to pull down the walls between us and do our best to build bridges instead.

Bridges of love: I am going to treat you how I want to be treated.
Bridges of humility: I still have so much to learn, (even when we disagree) teach me what you know.
Bridges of faith: I am going to chose to believe the best about you rather than the worst.
Bridges of healing: I will try to empathise and support you in your pain.
Bridges of understanding: I will listen to your perspective.
Bridges of acceptance: We are all unique individuals who can’t be put in a general box.
Bridges of similarities: We all have common ground because we are ALL human.
Bridges of forgiveness: We ALL make mistakes and get things wrong.

I know I would rather be a builder of bridges rather than a builder of walls. A person who chooses to break down these walls we have between each other.

‘Blow by blow and brick by brick’.

I want to keep myself OPEN because it is ALWAYS so much better than staying LOCKED in.

How about you?

People Will Never Forget How You Made Them Feel

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Have you ever thought about how you make people feel?

I guess it’s quite a hard question to answer unless you ask people directly. And perhaps it’s a question which might sound pretty strange.

‘Excuse me, how do I make you feel?’

You might have to prepare yourself for all sorts of answers (if people choose to be honest with you that is!!)

Could you guess what some people might say?

It’s a really good question in self awareness. Am I aware of how others might feel around me? Do they feel safe, valued, inspired, loved and cared for. Do they feel good being around me? Or might they feel intimidated, insecure, embarrassed, frustrated or angry when I am about.

Do people like being with me? Or would they rather get away from me given half a chance?

(I am sure people have felt both with me – none of us are perfect. And to be honest some people just won’t like us however hard we try).

When I first saw the Maya Angelou quote, it really struck a chord with me. I first considered how true it is as I thought about different people I have met throughout my life.

However, it also really inspired me to want to be the kind of person that people like to be around. I want people to come away with a positive feeling from being with me. I want people to feel like I am interested in them and care about them.

“Whatever you want for yourself, do it for others. If you make even small acts of compassion a daily habit, you will feel empowered & liberated from your own hurts & disappointments.” – Nick Vujicic

I don’t think we consider enough how we make people feel.

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(Image borrowed from PINTREST )

Over the past 21 months I have spent a lot of time in hospital and seen A LOT of different doctors and medical professionals and to be honest there is whole wide range of feelings I have experienced from being with or around them.

Some doctors made me feel valued, cared for, like they wanted to help, that I was a person not just a patient, that they were interested in my case, that they wanted to understand my condition and were there to support me on my journey.

Others made me feel intimidated, scared, anxious, doubted, misunderstood, inconvenient and frankly really upset!

Same job title,
Different people.
Contrasting responses.

Some people make us feel good, others can make us feel bad.
Some have a way of doing things and saying things that helps you to feel valued.
Others make you feel very under valued.

Now I have to say here that I think we need to be careful about letting other people dictate how we feel. We can’t ALWAYS blame others for making us ‘feel bad’. We can sometimes misunderstand others because of our own insecurities.

Sometimes it’s not actually them with the issue.
It’s us!
And we need a level of self awareness to know the difference.

We need humility to keep ourselves in check. To ask ourselves if we could have done or said things better. Pride will always leave us feeling hurt and we then blame others for it.

And yet it is inevitable that we are not going to feel good when the experience is bad. I am not going to feel cared for and safe if the other person seems disinterested or I feel under valued and misunderstood.

However, all this is only relevant if we understand that we can rarely change the way others behave towards us. We can perhaps influence it by being respectful, understanding and kind.

But we can’t MAKE others treat us well!

The only thing we can control is ourselves. We can only take responsibility of our own behaviour and responses. Sometimes we could all learn a bit more self control.

“Any fool can criticise, condemn and complain – and most fools do. But it takes character and self control to be understanding and forgiving.” – Dale Carnegie

So lets keep asking ourselves that question and pondering:
How do I really make others feel?

Do you try to look for ways to encourage, appreciate or compliment others? Perhaps saying “You look great today or you did that really well.” Do you try and look for the best in people, rather than just seeing the worst? Do You appreciate what they DO do for us or just point out all their failures and faults?

How can I make others feel comfortable around me?
What do they take away from time spent with me?

They are really good questions to chew on, ponder and consider. To be aware of next time we meet someone new.

We won’t always get it right, we have all had people misunderstand us. Or heard that people felt intimidated by us. I also believe people can sometimes completely misread us as we can others.

But it’s all about our hearts. I have to think about how I am acting around others and do my best to give people a positive vibe to take away. I want to be more self aware so that I get it right.I need the humility to see things from others perspectives rather than just my own limited understanding.

I want to be understanding instead of judgemental.
I want to learn to listen better rather than ‘speak my mind’ and ‘share my opinions’ AT people.
I want to think about how I can encourage others and appreciate what they do instead of criticise what they don’t.

Most of all I want to be a person people feel good being around. I know I may not always achieve this or get it right.

 BUT I SURE CAN TRY!!

How about we try together!

It’s amazing how differently people respond when we are kind. You never know, you might just become the highlight of someones bad day and your small act of kindness may well subsequently send ripples throughout the conversations and actions of many others throughout their day.

“People will forget what you SAID, people will forget what you DID, but people WILL NEVER FORGET how you made them FEEL.”