Are we good and smart because of our suffering or in spite of it?
 
The Catholic Church says not offering suffering for sinners or learning to endure it as a gift from God is wasting it.  Translate that.  It is saying that if you waste your suffering you deserve no sympathy.  Even if you should be offering your suffering or seeing it a gift that does not mean it is a waste if suffering does good.  So the logic is suffering is worthless without belief in God.  That is an odd doctrine for surely if God sends suffering it can be worth something even if one does not think there is a God!

 

If you are wasting suffering unless you affirm it as somehow a gift even if it not fully blown as a gift yet and the alternative is getting no compassion offering that suffering is an act of self-degradation.  The coin has another side, the hard unloving side.  To look at one side does nothing about the other.

 

Nobody likes the view that suffering is a gift from God to be offered back to him.  Because suffering is a tremendous thing in life and for all of us preventing it and dealing with it is what life is all about we reject such a teaching vehemently.  Suffering is always a waste which is why the only productive response is trying to defeat it.  Religion cannot admit that for it wants you to imagine that it is helpful when in fact its help is no good.  It is only a cynical selling point.

 

Suffering is a set of sufferings.  It is really sufferings not suffering.  You can get through sufferings by trying to force as many of them as you can into a situation where they are defeated or reasonably disarmed by good.  The fact that you have to get good to appear in spite of suffering does not in any way make suffering good or moral.  It means the suffering is even more vile when you have to try to get the good to beat it.  Getting medicine for a sickness shows how disgusting and inexcusable getting sick is in the sense it should not happen to you.   The true evil is in suggesting that suffering is ever in any way good. That is really kidding yourself and insulting others.  This watering down happens naturally when the suffering is over and your life is good again but the suffering has nothing to do with making your life good.  Do not forget that. 

 

Some have a defeatist approach to suffering and imagine they feel better by deciding nothing can be done about it.  That can be masked.  They can hide it as using suffering for a nice purpose. There is no point in caring about how you treat people if suffering is that wonderful.  And as we all know, suffering people come first and to say that suffering is good is to suggest they are the best people around just because they suffer.  It is warped to exalt a person who suffers a lot bravely over a person who happily saves thousands of lives and who lives a relatively easy life regardless.

 

The main virtue is ?

 

Suffering is such a huge thing that surely if suffering is good or you can turn it good by deciding to offer it to God then suffering is the main virtue?

 

If so then why?

 

Answers:
 
"Suffering makes us better people."
 
This view turns suffering into a blessing and invests it with some mysterious power to make you a holier and better person.
 
It is bad enough to say such a thing when you are thinking of the human level. What if you are thinking of a person who becomes more patient and thoughtful of others?


You are merely saying that it is good that they grew when they suffered not that the suffering caused the growing. Or you should be! To say it is good they suffer so that they learn from it is terrible. There is no excuse.
 
If you believe in God you will have to believe that God willed the suffering in order to change the person. Suffering was an essential cause of the change. The idea is that God loves you and will not create your suffering if it is not needed in some plan.
 
To bring God into it makes you callous at worst and smug at best. For believers in God, suffering that causes you to pray better if nothing else is worth it. If God alone matters then having a relationship with him in prayer matters more than saving all the sick babies in the world. It shows how the idea of God brings in ideas of virtue we could do without and don't need. And twisted ideas of virtue they are!
 
"We become better people in spite of suffering and never because of it. Responding nobly to suffering makes us better people".
 
This view puts the focus on what we do not because of suffering but in spite of it. It argues that suffering does nothing but how we respond to suffering does something worthwhile. This is the mature view. The previous view is just sick. And bringing God into it is making a bad view worse. 

 

If good is to be battled for in spite of suffering it follows that suffering has no purpose and contradicts the love of God.  It is anti-love to take any other approach.

Religion
 
Religion loves to say that suffering leads to virtue and good things. For religion, suffering happens because God is bringing good out of the suffering. The good happens because of the suffering. Even suffering is seen as a gift - it is a good thing in the wrong place for God only creates what is good.
 
If a person is okay but becomes an amazing person when suffering that does not prove the suffering is the direct cause. Correlation must not be confused with causation. A person who gets over the flu rapidly after patting the dog is not proof that his dog has healing powers. The recovery could have happened for one of any number of reasons.
 
It is a very serious matter to make out that there is a wonderful and desirable link between suffering and goodness. Anybody who does that does not understand or care how bad suffering can be and you can be sure that the rest of the world will always suffer more than you. To not care is to enter the company of those who wreak evil and terror in the name of some "worthwhile" goal.
 
This bit is hypothetical. Suppose we gain because of our suffering. It is possible that part of this gain came in spite of our suffering. It would be very wrong to see the suffering as the only producer of good. To say suffering is needed for good is to sanction it and to say it comes in spite of good is not to sanction it. Even then if we benefited from suffering it does not follow that the suffering should have happened. The benefits might have happened without it.
 
To say suffering partly causes good is to be partly happy with it. To say it is the only cause is to celebrate it totally. People are better at that with the suffering of others than their own.
 
The goal
 
Maybe you suffer and think good will come at the end of it. What if we are to will the good end goal that we suffer for and not the suffering but hate it and endure it to achieve the end?

You have to endure the suffering whether you like it or not so it is tempting to try and feel more peaceful by condoning the suffering by saying it is a gift and agony is good.

Hating it will make it worse and be a new source of pain.
 
But if you condone it, you will need to and end up having to condone the suffering of others too. There is no real such thing as goodness if you have to condone suffering either your own or another's. Condoning evil in order to make yourself feel better now is letting evil into your world and that will lead to fear and will fail down the line. At least if you are placidly defiant you will feel you have the goodness to resist it and not let it triumph.

The end goal is not really is the goal for which you suffer. Just because something good is at the end of the corridor does not mean suffering caused it.
 
And if you struggle to overcome hatred of suffering isn't that the bigger goal that is meant to lead to the other goal? It is the big goal focusing on the smaller one!
 
Telling a person, "You must stop being angry at your suffering or else it will get worse and make your life not worth living" is blackmail.

What use is suffering to God if you do not want to suffer and do not consent to any of it?

Suffering is not wanted or willed meaning it isn't supposed to exist as far as you are concerned. If God makes you suffer then you are being a rebel. It cannot bring you to God. Suffering tempts you to rebel.  It goes with rebellion for by default it is not an experience you want to have under any circumstances.
 
If God is the goal of suffering then you are not to think of the suffering at all but of the good end goal. When you are supposed to do that you might as well not suffer. It means that suffering in itself does not have value but the end result does. So if God needs us to suffer then suffering is good even when it is good for nothing. It is all contradiction.

 

FINALLY

 

If suffering is degradation then to try and get us to think it is not is evil.  To condone my suffering in the guise of it being a gift of training from God is speaking for that of others too and that is not my place.  I cannot really consent to something that forces itself on me and degrades me so any good I get from a terrible experience came in spite of it not because of it.  The one who links suffering and holiness is evil for that is as good as saying x should suffer when x got holier seemingly because of it.  The two things happening together does not mean that suffering made you holier.  And to say that you are evil if you do not see your suffering a gift and as training shows there is no real compassion in the notion that it is a gift.