What Would You Suffer For?

High-Value Test: What are you willing to suffer for, with dignity?

Question One: What are you willing to suffer for?

Question Two: What is more important continual suffering, sweat, and sacrifice?

Question Three: Why do you gladly suffer and fight, when others quit, cut-corners, and complain? 

This will clue you into what your vision of life is.  What is your motivating ‘why’? This defines you as a person, and as a leader.

To quote Nietzsche, “if you have a ‘why’ you can survive of almost any ‘how’. 

Twilight of the Idols (1889), section: ‘Maxims and Arrows’)

“In some ways, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment, it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”

Viktor Frankl

Just as everybody is a leader of some sort, everybody has a vision of life, of some sort too. And these to aspects are related.

But some leaders are ineffective, and some leaders influence people in the wrong direction. Hitler was an effective influencer, but evil, for instance. 

If you want to be a good leader, even a good person, you need to know what your ‘vision of life’ is.

You probably don’t want to drop everything you’re doing and start studying history, philosophy, and theology.

Are there some shortcuts? Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that you can wrestle with telling questions that reveal things about yourself. No, in the sense that such revelations don’t remove the necessary soul-searching and contemplation in order to discover, what you do believe, should believe, and can believe.

Yet, there are such things that I’d call ‘high-value’ tests. For instance, a way that you can see what you think is materially valuable might be to imagine that you discover your house is on fire. What do you grab first? For instance, if you grabbed your cat, and ignored your children…well…that would quite concerning. Regardless, this thought experiment allows you to consider what is truly valuable, though not exactly in a material sense.

In the context of leadership, consider the fact that great leaders can transform meaningless drudgery into meaningful and inspirational activity…but this is only possible…if one has a great vision of life. 

To this end, ask yourself this question: “What will you suffer with dignity for?” Your answer will be revealing. If you are not willing to suffer for anything good, then you clearly have nothing to lead with. If you only have petty or small aims, then only petty and small sacrifices are the limit of your influence. 

But if you have a grand vision, of what is great, and noble, and wonderous, as well as a clear idea of what is wrong (the obstacles of the vision), then you might have a suitable vision of life that can justify getting through the low points of life, and work, etc. 

Living an admirable life requires us to work through suffering. Leadership requires navigation through suffering preeminently. Those that follow look to you as a lighthouse for guidance. Do you have any light to give?

Stories to Check Out:

Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning

Consider great trials, and the heroic persons that went through them (and why):

  • Saint Patrick of Ireland, who went back to his slave-captors to share the gospel with them. See my article here.
  • Socrates, who drank the Hemlock, since it was somehow unjust to escape the lawful punishment of the court. He thought it was better to suffer injustice, rather than commit an injustice himself.
  • Saint Thomas More, who died at the behest of King Henry VIII of England, because he refused to bend his religious principles in order to give the King another divorce.
  • Martin Luther King devoted himself to non-violent civil disobedience, despite violent attacks on himself.
  • Jesus suffered and died for sinners, despite His innocence, and His disciples committed themselves to spread the gospel despite the inevitable exiles, trials, and martyrdom, that such ministry required.

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