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Suffering is an individual's basic affective experience of physical or mental unpleasantness and aversion associated with harm or threat of harm.

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  • Suffering is not necessarily a fixed and universal experience that can be measured by a single rod: it is related to situations, needs, and aspirations. But there must be some historical and political parameters for the use of the term so that political priorities can be established and different forms and degrees of suffering can be given the most attention.
  • The capacity to accept suffering for the sake of goodness, truth and justice is an essential criterion of humanity, because if my own well-being and safety are ultimately more important than truth and justice, then the power of the stronger prevails, then violence and untruth reign supreme. Truth and justice must stand above my comfort and physical well-being, or else my life itself becomes a lie. In the end, even the “yes” to love is a source of suffering, because love always requires expropriations of my “I”, in which I allow myself to be pruned and wounded. Love simply cannot exist without this painful renunciation of myself, for otherwise it becomes pure selfishness and thereby ceases to be love.
  • “You know, my dear, you’re wrong that suffering ennobles people.” She’d stopped to massage her hip, wincing. “It simply makes one cross.”
  • Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of suffering: birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering.
    Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the origin of suffering: it is this craving which leads to re-becoming, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking delight here and there; that is, craving for sensual pleasures, craving for becoming, craving for disbecoming.
    Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering: it is the remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving, the giving up and relinquishing of it, freedom from it, non-reliance on it.
    Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering: it is this noble eightfold path; that is, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.




  • One’s strategy in trying to defend or to attack the claim that God exists obviously depends on what is meant by “God.” It may be objected that it is not so difficult to isolate what might be called the popular conception of God. The problem of suffering is of crucial importance because it shows that the God of popular theism does not exist.
  • When does temporal suffering weigh most appallingly on a person? Is it not when it seems to him to have no meaning, procures and acquires nothing; is it not when suffering, as the impatient person expresses it, is meaningless and pointless? Does someone who wants to take part in a competition complain even if preparation takes ever so much effort; does he complain even if it involves ever so much suffering and pain? Why does he not complain? Because he, although running aimlessly, understands, or thinks he understands, that this suffering will procure the victory prize for him. Just when the effort is greatest and most painful, he encourages himself with the thought that the prize and that this specific suffering will help to procure for him.
    If, however, the suffering embraces a person so tightly that his understanding wants to have nothing more to do with it, because the understanding cannot comprehend what the suffering would be able to procure when the sufferer cannot grasp this dark riddle, neither the basis of the suffering nor its purpose, neither why he should be so afflicted more than others nor how this would benefit him-and he now, when powerless he feels that he cannot throw off the suffering, rebelliously casts away faith, refuses to believe that the suffering will procure anything-well, then eternal happiness certainly cannot have the overweight, because it is totally excluded.
    However, if the sufferer firmly holds on to what understanding admittedly cannot comprehend, but what faith, on the other hand, firmly holds on to-that suffering will procure a great and eternal weight of glory-then eternal happiness has the overweight, then the sufferer not only endures the suffering but understands that the eternal happiness has the overweight. (II Corinthians 4:17)



  • A genuine Left doesn't consider anyone's suffering irrelevant, or titillating; nor does it function as a microcosm of capitalist economy, with men competing for power and status at the top, and women doing all the work at the bottom (and functioning as objectified prizes or "coin" as well). Goodbye to all that.
    • Robin Morgan Goodbye to All That, 1970 in Going Too Far: The Personal Chronicle of a Feminist, p 123.


  • No suffering is self-caused.
    Nothing causes itself.
    If another is not self-made,
    How could suffering be caused by another?

    If suffering were caused by each,
    Suffering could be caused by both.
    Not caused by self or by other,
    How could suffering be uncaused?


  • For I consider that the sufferings of the present time do not amount to anything in comparison with the glory that is going to be revealed in us. For the creation is waiting with eager expectation for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will, but through the one who subjected it, on the basis of hope that the creation itself will also be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God. For we know that all creation keeps on groaning together and being in pain together until now.
  • If it is true that one gets used to suffering, how is it that as the years go one always suffers more?
    No, they are not mad, those people who amuse themselves, enjoy life, travel, make love, fight—they are not mad. We should like to do the same ourselves.
  • But the real, tremendous truth is this: suffering serves no purpose whatever.
  • You cannot insult a man more atrociously than by refusing to believe he is suffering.


  • For there are deeds
    Which have no form, sufferings which have no tongue.
Dr. Leonard McCoy: I never say that.


  • When you suffer, think not on how you can escape suffering, but concentrate your efforts on what kind of inner moral and spiritual perfection this suffering requires.


  • Now and then, in the course of the century, a great man of science, like Darwin; a great poet, like Keats; a fine critical spirit, like M. Renan; a supreme artist, like Flaubert, has been able to isolate himself, to keep himself out of reach of the clamorous claims of others, to stand “under the shelter of the wall,” as Plato puts it, and so to realise the perfection of what was in him, to his own incomparable gain, and to the incomparable and lasting gain of the whole world. These, however, are exceptions. The majority of people spoil their lives by an unhealthy and exaggerated altruism—are forced, indeed, so to spoil them. They find themselves surrounded by hideous poverty, by hideous ugliness, by hideous starvation. It is inevitable that they should be strongly moved by all this. The emotions of man are stirred more quickly than man’s intelligence. … It is much more easy to have sympathy with suffering than it is to have sympathy with thought.
    • Oscar Wilde, “The Soul of Man Under Socialism,” Complete Works (New York: 1989), p. 1079
  • Suffering is admittedly one of the central problems of human existence; but this is because we have a suspicion that it is all for nothing. If we had a certainty about meaning, the suffering would be bearable. With no certainty of meaning, even comfort begins to feel futile.
  • He could afford to suffer
    With those whom he saw suffer.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 762-63.
  • To each his suff'rings; all are men,
    Condemn'd alike to groan;
    The tender for another's pain,
    Th' unfeeling for his own.
    Yet ah! why should they know their fate,
    Since sorrow never comes too late,
    And happiness too swiftly flies?
    Thought would destroy their paradise.
    • Thomas Gray, Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College (1742), Stanza 10.
  • Ho! why dost thou shiver and shake, Gaffer Grey?
    And why does thy nose look so blue?
  • And taste
    The melancholy joys of evils pass'd,
    For he who much has suffer'd, much will know.
    • Homer, The Odyssey, Book XV, line 434. Pope's translation.
  • I have trodden the wine-press alone.
  • Graviora quæ patiantur videntur jam hominibus quam quæ metuant.
    • Present sufferings seem far greater to men than those they merely dread.
    • Livy, Annales, III. 39.
  • They, the holy ones and weakly,
    Who the cross of suffering bore,
    Folded their pale hands so meekly,
    Spake with us on earth no more!
  • Perfer et obdura; dolor hic tibi proderit olim.
    • Have patience and endure; this unhappiness will one day be beneficial.
    • Ovid, Amorum (16 BC), III. 11. 7.
  • Leniter ex merito quidquid patiare ferendum est,
    Quæ venit indigne pœna dolenda venit.
    • What is deservedly suffered must be borne with calmness, but when the pain is unmerited, the grief is resistless.
    • Ovid, Heriodes, V. 7.
  • Si stimulos pugnis cædis manibus plus dolet.
    • If you strike the goads with your fists, your hands suffer most.
    • Plautus, Truculentus, IV. 2. 54.
  • Levia perpessi sumus
    Si flenda patimur.
    • We have suffered lightly, if we have suffered what we should weep for.
    • Seneca the Younger, Agamemnon, 665.
  • Those who inflict must suffer, for they see
    The work of their own hearts, and that must be
    Our chastisement or recompense.
  • Can it be, O Christ in heaven, that the holiest suffer most,
    That the strongest wander furthest, and more hopelessly are lost?

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers[edit]

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
  • Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seamed with scars; martyrs have put on their coronation robes glittering with fire; and through their tears have the sorrowful first seen the gate of heaven.
  • Toil on, O weary, way-worn sufferer! bear up, O crushed and sorrowing heart! thy bed of pain, thy silent heroism, thy patient Christian walk, thy resignation, and thy grief, glow all unconsciously to thee with winning radiance, and fill the world with life's sweetest fragrance — as bruised flowers with perfume do the air.
  • There is seldom a line of glory written upon the earth's face, but a line of suffering runs parallel with it; and they that read the lustrous syllables of the one, and stoop not to decipher the spotted and worn inscription of the other, get the.least half of the lesson earth has to give.
  • He knows the bitter, weary way,
    The endless striving day by day,
    The souls that weep, the souls that pray
    He knows!

    He knows! Oh thought so full of bliss!
    For though on earth our joy we miss,
    We still can bear it, feeling this,—
    He knows'

    He knows; O heart take up thy cross,
    And know earth's treasures are but dross,

    And He will prove as gain our loss!
    He knows.
  • Our merciful Father has no pleasure in the sufferings of His children; He chastens them in love; He never inflicts a stroke He could safely spare; He inflicts it to purify as well as to punish, to caution as well as to cure, to improve as well as to chastise.
  • Suffering is my gain; I bow
    To my Heavenly Father's will,
    And receive it hushed and still;
    Suffering is my worship now.
  • Not till I was shut up to prayer and to the study of God's word by the loss of earthly joys — sickness destroying the flavor of them all — did I begin to penetrate the mystery that is learned under the cross. And wondrous as it is, how simple is this mystery! To love Christ, and to know that I love Him — this is all.
  • Some of His children must go into the furnace to testify that the Son of God is there with them.
  • The cross of Christ is the pledge to us that the deepest suffering may be the condition of the highest blessing; the sign, not of God's displeasure, but of His widest and most compassionate face.
  • In the highest class of God's school of suffering we learn not resignation nor patience, but rejoicing in tribulation.

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