What Abe Lincoln Taught Me About Suffering

Abraham Lincoln is well known for his quips and clever words. Whether it be advice on civil rights, character, freedom, or success, our 16th president had simple, yet profoundly wise words that are timeless and still worthy of our attention.

Such as…

The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.

Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt

 And this one that I hold dear,

And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

Though he couldn’t have known it when he said it, his years were cut short at 56. And much of his life was suffering. He was born poor, he was plagued with melancholy and suicidal thoughts, his wife had mental health problems, and three of their four sons died young.

Yet, he persevered despite these terrible life circumstances.

Thinking about that made me wonder-

Why is it that some people can’t cope with disaster or difficulties, while others with similar troubles thrive despite?

It blows me away when I meet people with things like terminal cancer, disfigurement, chronic pain, traumatic childhoods, or great loss are able to adapt and cope despite the atrocity of their situation.

They don’t give up. They still believe that God is good. That life is precious, and that they will overcome.

Others with similar circumstances groan how miserable they are and believe the world is a wretched place and life has no meaning.

I know life is unfair and full of pain and suffering. It makes no sense.

But life is also full of love and hope.

Bad things happen. But you and I have a choice –  to rise above, or to drown in the muck.

Yes, I do believe we can live and thrive in spite of an awful childhood, a debilitating disease, or a loved one gone too soon.

Lincoln with his son Willie

You may wonder,

How can I go on? How can I be happy? You have no idea what I’ve been through! 

You’re right. I have no idea what you have been through.  But I can try to understand. I only know what I’ve gone through, what I have wrestled with, and I’m still here.

  • I believe good triumphs over evil.
  • I believe there is a God who loves us, despite what the majority may believe.
  • I am sure we are not abandoned. 
  • I don’t think everything happens for a reason, rather life is fragile, an accident is an accident, and we will all die someday.
  • I can say broken hearts heal, and the pain lessens in time.  
  • And I am certain that no matter what, life is always worth living.  

When you arise in the morning – let your first thought be what a glorious privilege it is to be alive. To breathe, to think, to create, to hope, to love.

Be the person, like Abraham Lincoln, who carries on despite suffering. There are many who stand by us, offering us their example as a comforting embrace and reminder.  Like Abe, who wrote these loving words to a friend who just lost her father. ALquotescover-JPG-18

No matter what you are going through, no matter what has happened – let me, like Abe, alleviate some of your suffering. You are not alone. You are more resilient than you think. Life is what it is. Suffering is inevitable, but misery, existing in wretched desolation, is optional.

Although Lincoln’s melancholy “dripped from him as he walked“,  his hardships and intense distress gave him an unlimited supply of sapient guidance and an innate ability to truly empathize with anyone. If Abraham Lincoln was able to endure countless tribulations on top of his lifelong (untreated) clinical depression, surely you can, and most definitely I can too.

I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to 
succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.

Abraham Lincoln

Published by

Kathy

I am a Nurse Practitioner from Rochester, NY presently working in both the inpatient and outpatient hospital psychiatric settings.

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