What We’re Really Missing When We Avoid Suffering


It’s winter where I live. With winter comes cold, dark nights. But spring doesn’t come without winter.

As you go through life, you learn this lesson about the cycle of the seasons, their ups and downs. Eventually, you discover that it applies to other parts of your life as well. I know I have. Like when I first struggled through working for a hard boss…or when I almost hyperventilated from nervousness before going into the CEO’s office—but in both cases emerged stronger for the experience.

There is no growth without suffering.

It seems as if, right now, I’m learning this lesson all over again. And even though I’ve been taught it before, it’s no less painful this time around.

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Suffering makes us grow—it’s a fact of life. Salespeople often have to hear multiple rejections before they’ll refine their pitches. Many relationships won’t reach the depths of intimacy until pain is discussed and hard truths are spoken. Managers don’t truly become leaders until they’ve wrestled through gut-wrenching people problems. Too many executives don’t fully appreciate what’s at stake until they’ve gone through a major financial crisis. And Tom Brady didn’t reach a historic milestone in football until after he’d been suspended and his mom had been diagnosed with cancer. Suffering makes us grow.

Why does acknowledging that matter?

Here’s why it matters for me.

I avoid suffering at all costs. I numb it. I ignore it. I complain about it. I get angry when I’m in it.

At best, those responses make me tired and disengaged. At worst, they make me miss the chance to grow.

As I said, lately, I’ve been suffering. Growing pains at work. Young needy kids at home. Economic headwinds. It’s felt cold and dark.

In these seasons of our lives, people will often make comments like, “Don’t take it personally,” “It’s just business,” “It could be worse,” or “It will all work out.” They’re meant to be helpful. But I’m not sure if they’re anything other than attempts to avoid the necessary pain of being human.

To really grow, you have to endure all of the suffering. A difficult relationship, a hard change at work, people who want more from you than you have to give—we’d prefer to avoid it. But avoidance isn’t the answer.

Que Aguante

The Spanish language has a phrase that I’ve always appreciated: que aguante. It means what suffering. The phrase implies tolerance, endurance and holding the weight of something.

I need to embrace que aguante in order to keep growing. I need to expect que aguante in my relationships, business and health. Because I know that if I start every day anticipating que aguante with my kids, my work, my body, my marriage and my friendships, two things will happen:

  1. I will, as Dale Carnegie says, “cooperate with the inevitable.” I’ll be able to let go of my desire to control circumstances and can adjust myself to the flow around me. This will make me more relaxed and better able to meet people and situations where they are rather than where I want them to be.
  2. I will be more interested in moving through the pain rather than around it in order to be better. No pain, no gain…it’s never been truer for me. Embracing the pain might get me quicker to the gain.

Is it winter for you? Or is winter on the horizon? Instead of withering away under the weight of it, let’s commit to embracing que aguante so that we can emerge stronger, ready to grow and flourish in the brighter season that awaits.

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