Last week marked three years since the passing of Chani Weinrott, whose struggle with cancer was an inspiration to many. In this period of corona, I have been reminded many times of the advice Chani used to give on the need to distinguish between necessary and unnecessary suffering.
She explained that her disease, for example, was necessary suffering. It was a reality with which she had to cope. But to become depressed, to argue with everyone, to stop fulfilling her dreams – that would have been unnecessary suffering. That kind of suffering was a matter of choice.
Here’s an example from everyday life: Your family gets into the car and it’s clear you’ll be arriving late to an event – that’s necessary suffering. But to spend the drive to the event arguing, accusing, and worrying about being late – that’s unnecessary suffering. That’s a personal decision you make.
It seems to me that Chani would have explained the corona pandemic as necessary suffering. To our dismay, the pandemic is a fact. But it’s not necessary that we become addicted to screens, to eating junk food, to wasting time, to cutting social ties, to sinking into pessimism. The pandemic doesn’t exempt us from decisions on how to behave.
May we all distinguish between necessary and unnecessary suffering, and experience as little suffering as possible.