“The pain you are going through is not what will determine your future; your future will be determined by who you are as you go through your pain.”
In Tears to Triumph, best-selling author, speaker, and activist Marianne Williamson tackles an age-old human experience—that of suffering. Writers from time immemorial have put pen to paper about the subject; it’s not new. What is new, according to Williamson, is our failure to respond to it. So many today live with the emotional pain of depression, relational trauma, and grief without knowing how to deal with them and find true healing.
The Big Idea
The Case Against Numbness
"A life of spiritual triumph is not one in which we never fall into a deep, dark valley; it is one in which, if and when we do fall, we’ve learned how to get ourselves out of it."
After all, people didn’t just start dying, confronting catastrophes or enduring heartbreak. Over the millennia, we have figured out ways to adapt to challenges or threats to our survival. The “problem” with modern society is that we have learned to numb, medicate and/or deny our pain. Even our pop culture is a numbing agent, making us inappropriately comfortable when we ought to be appropriately uncomfortable.
What we need to realize is that periods of suffering are not always detours but can serve as significant stops along the journey. Even the happiest life can have deeply sad days. The fact that we can be heartbroken is part of our humanity; it is not a weakness in our character. By avoiding our pain, we avoid our growth.
Shifting a Culture of Depression
"The only way to escape our suffering is to rise above the thought system that creates it."
Marianne finds it odd that we spend so much time treating the darkness and so little time seeking the light.
Did you know, for instance, that in order to create their beautiful plumage, peacocks sometimes eat thorns? So it is with us. As excruciating as the “thorns” of regret, failure and loss can be to endure, they can also pave the way to the “unparalleled beauty” of illumination, forgiveness, appreciation and gratitude.
Instead, we have taken the dictates of a business model and imposed them onto everything. We rush what ought not to be rushed. People thus feel guilty for grieving. A typical example is when someone says: “It’s been a month since your mother died. Aren’t you over it yet?” At such a time, it’s more than okay–in fact healthy–to say, “No, I’m not, and I probably won’t be for a while.”
Yes, the mechanistic worldview that permeates our civilization is depressing. The consequence is a low-level daily sadness and disconnection from one another. According to the author, this larger epidemic of individual fatigue, weariness and lack of vitality will not be adequately assuaged until we address the larger problems in our society.
On an individual level, here is some starting food-for-thought:
- The future is programmed in the present. If we enter the present carrying thoughts of the past, we program the future to be just like the past.
- The warden can’t leave the prison any more than the prisoner can.
- There are no neutral thoughts. Every thought is a cause that will lead to an effect.
- Joy doesn’t rest on trusting that every day will unfold as we wish. Sometimes it rests on simply appreciating the fact that today, on this day, everything is fine.
Changing Ourselves, Changing the World
"The moment I become part of a larger solution, and a larger world, my own healing begins."
It’s almost as if we’re individuals in a very bright room, holding our fingers in front of our eyes and complaining that it is dark in here.
In turn, once we un-freeze out of the confined limitations in which we have housed ourselves, we may notice some things that need to change in us. Plus, we might learn how certain neurotic patterns are ruining our personal as well as collective lives. The outer world is merely a projection of our inner thoughts.
By expanding our thinking, we forge new pathways in our brains and avail ourselves of quantum possibilities that otherwise would not appear. To start to travel down such new roadways, here are additional “provocations” to consider:
- Sometimes neurosis is best measured not by the things that make us sad, but by the things that do not make us sad.
- It’s not negative to yell “Fire!” if indeed a house is burning. What is negative is to sit there and do nothing.
- Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t just urge people to love their oppressors. He also urged them to boycott the bus company.
- We’re not here to ignore the darkness of the world, but to transform it.
- To quote Mahatma Gandhi: “Speak only if it improves upon the silence.”
- A key to transcending our suffering is to use it as a blessing upon the lives of others.
To summarize, we need emotional muscles to rise up emotionally and physical muscles to rise up physically. Developing those muscles takes work. As a result of her enlightening words, Marianne Williamson leaves us stronger to help set all of us free.