Be patient and tough; someday this pain will be useful to you. – Ovid
What does that mean?
This Latin verse has also translated as “Have patience and endure; this unhappiness will one day be beneficial.” I have been unable to locate a more complete section of the work from which to gather more context.
However, both translations of the quote tell us that the trouble and difficulty we are presently experiencing will eventually pass. It also reminds us that at some point, it will prove useful to us in some way.
It isn’t always obvious, but lessons can be learned from every experience, no matter how painful or absurd. It is up to us to figure out the proper point to learn in each case. And it will be useful some day.
Why is enduring pain important?
Whether you call it pain or unhappiness, there are many experiences in life which help us understand the lessons of life. Was there pain the first time you asked someone if they liked you, and they said “no?” If you endured the pain, you might have learned not to ask the question, or you might have learned to ask only when you already knew the answer.
Being patient and tough help us endure the temporary pain, and help us learn from the experience. The learning, of course, is a very personal thing, and many people take the same situation and come up with different lessons to learn from it. That is part of being human, and why some of us repeat the same experience a few times before coming up with a better understanding of the lesson.
Without patience, toughness and endurance, we will find it quite difficult to get to the place on the far side of the pain to get the perspective necessary to learn the lesson. This, itself, is a lesson which can only be learned by getting through the pain and unhappiness of the experiences of life. Often it is the difference between doing well and just getting by. The difference is the ability to endure the pain.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Many things in life are painful, and require one to be patient, to have an ability to endure, and to have toughness. Many years ago, I married too early, and then divorced. It was a terrible thing to endure, but in it, I learned much about myself I would never have learned any other way. In this manner, It became very useful to me.
With the clarity of what I did wrong and in what areas I needed to grow, I was able to become a much better person. But to get to that point, I had to endure a lot of pain. However, out of that pain and subsequent growth from the lessons I learned, I was able to do much better and have been married for over 20 years to my wife.
Some might choose to learn the lesson that marriage only brings pain and unhappiness. I chose to learn a different lesson, and found the pain and unhappiness to be a temporary thing. We each learn a different lesson, and what is right for one person might not work well for another. What lessons we learn may differ depending on when in our lives we learn them.
Take a moment to consider a tough or unhappy time in your life. Did you learn something useful from the experience? Even if the lesson you took from the experience changed later in life, you still learned something, and that is useful. And you can probably think of a few other times when this was true, where something happened, and you turned the pain into something useful.
But that was the past. What are you going through now? What is happening that you think is painful or unhappy? What might you learn from the experience? It’s not a complete failure if you learn something from the experience, right? So what can you learn, and when might you be able to apply this lesson to your life?
And what of the future? What might happen, and how can you steel yourself to be patient enough and strong enough to abide by the pain, and to learn the lesson? Will belief in a useful lesson be sufficient to help you get to where you need to be to push through the unhappiness and pain of the moment? How else will you learn?
Life is full of happiness and unhappiness, pleasure and pain. It is up to you to survive these things and to learn from all of them. The hardest may be the painful experiences, as there are many ways you can interpret the lesson. Be prepared to revisit and revise the lesson you learned, when it is appropriate.
And consider being there for others who may be going through a rough time. Help them be patient. Help them be tough. Help them endure the pain and unhappiness. Especially if that other person is you.