“I am willing to suffer … for all eternity, if this [is] possible”, wrote Mother Theresa in a letter. I had always believed that Mother Theresa was HAPPY with what she did throughout her life. However, her secret correspondence with a number of spiritual confidants reveals a half century of suffering, darkness, a feeling that Jesus had left her, doubt in God’s existence, loneliness. She found some relief in thoughts of her future sainthood – she imagined herself as the saint of doubters, those “in darkness”. Hm.
Some people believe that the published collection of her letters MotherTheresa: Come Be My Light will help people who have lost their faith and sunk into the darkness of suffering and doubt. I wonder what the book’s message to them will be – that they have the potential to suffer even better, that, of course, suffering will take them to Heaven, and they should dream of eternal suffering?
Well, I have never thought masochism to be a normal state of human nature, and I have never thought of helping a sufferer through encouraging him to suffer even deeper (unless I intended to help him faster realize he had suffered enough).
I believe that every bit of suffering could be transformed into something to help people on their way to happiness – the essential state, the core of human nature.
However, so many people seem to believe that there is some chic in suffering, that suffering somehow sends you on a higher plane, above other people. One of the most popular Bulgarian folk songs is a dialogue between a young man and a young woman, discussing whose pain is greater. Another one explains that a mom should be respected more than a girlfriend because the former mourns her son till her death, while the latter stops mourning her lover soon after his death.
Suffering gains people’s respect. It’s recognized as some kind of achievement. I have listened so many times to women discussing their periods, pregnancies, birth labour. I have always wondered why my fast and painless giving birth or my lack of cramps and pregnancy indisposition should make me a less worthy person. Why should my generally good health and fast recovery make me a less worthy person? Or the fact that I earn more than many people around. Or the fact that I love my job.
I don’t see why, but even I am not immune to this pain fad. I often feel somehow guilty and subconsciously doubt my being worthy of my luck to have been born in an educated well-to-do family.
Some people believe that Mother Theresa’s suffering makes her even holier because she went on helping people despite her pain. OK. Let’s imagine Mother Theresa had been happily married to Brad Pitt rather than Jesus, she had been rich and famous, aided by her husband in her work. Would that have made her less worthy? Would that have made her impact smaller? Hm. Perhaps people would have doubted her motives then, saying that she was doing it as an expensive PR campaign. OK, but if she went on doing it for years? Then they would start realizing the truth that she did it out of love and compassion.
When Mother Theresa was the icon of love, many people believed her to be an unreachable saint. I have heard so many people say “You should be Mother Theresa to do that”. How could the happy Mother Theresa have been a good role model for average people in the west, then? Still she used to be a good model for monks, nuns, volunteers on missions, etc.
How could she be a good role model now? The lesson the suffering Mother Theresa could teach is that helping people makes you sad and lonely, but holier. How many people would be keen on following this example? How could that help make the world a better place?
I think people do need heroes, but I don’t believe these should be Greek tragedy sufferers. They need to see people who are happy to help other people. Thus, the old Mother Theresa was a much better role-model than the new one. And Angelina Jolie is better than both. The best role models for the average middle-class person, however, are neither saints not stars. They are ordinary people who are happy with what they have and what they give.
As for the new Mother Theresa, what I feel for her is deep compassion. I am not disappointed with her, but she cannot inspire me. Well, I’ll write about that later.
You should be able to some extent identify with someone, in order to take him as a role model. Here’s why you could expect a text on why I will soon make a great face in advertising targeted at the aging population. You might also expect more texts on children and teenage heroes, and … heroes in general.