What Sufferings Are Not Gifts?

Watching this interview between Colbert and Anderson Cooper, I am reminded of the great quote attributed to Charlie Chaplin:
“To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain and play with it.”

Colbert is one of the masters of this, and always has been. And it was years ago now that I first read a magazine piece about the deaths they talk about in this video.

That deep pain is one of the things that has driven him throughout his life.

But, as you can see in this interview, it’s also the thing that has driven him forward to become the person he is today.

I talk a lot about the concept: “Follow Your Heartbreak.” What does it mean?

Rather than running from suffering and pain, listen to it and allow it to speak to you. That’s what Chaplin was saying in that quote. Or, that’s what Jesus does during Holy Week.

Chaplin, Colbert…and yes, even Jesus…knew that there here is no way *around* suffering…only “through” it.

But, there is a “gift” that comes.

The suffering doesn’t happen “so that” we can get the gift. The suffering just “happens.”

Happens, as Colbert reminds us here, to ALL of us.

The gift that comes is…compassion…love…empathy…and understanding that, eventually, suffering is universal and no one escapes it.

This is the powerful meditation on the “gift” of suffering causes Anderson Cooper to tear up. (He, of course, has his own story of overcoming suffering. And you can’t help but wonder if that was on his mind too…)

You see, this is why I’ve always said that I can’t trust folks who can’t laugh at themselves and the world.

Because if you can’t at some level laugh at the ridiculousness of it all —even the suffering of life— then you are probably still not reconciled with your *own* suffering. Even worse, you are likely to manifest that denial by projecting your own suffering on to others in harmful ways.

Comedy…theology….music…writing…art….it’s all getting at a common thread of our humanity– How do we come to terms with the suffering of our world, and what are we going to do about it?

Are there ways you can redeem your own suffering —by the things you do with your life and time— that can create something beautiful for the world?

That’s what it means to “Follow Your Heartbreak.”

Stephen Colbert is a perfect example of this, and I hope you’ll watch this beautiful little video clip.


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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He is Senior Pastor of Kessler Park UMC United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. Previously, he was pastor at Northaven UMC in Dallas for seventeen years. Eric loves to write on topics of spirituality, social justice, music/art and politics. The entries on this blog reflect that diversity of interests. His passion for social justice goes beyond mere words. He’s been arrested at the White House, defending immigrants and “The Dreamers,” and he’s officiated at same sex weddings in his churches, in defiance of what some believe is Methodist teaching. Eric is an avid blogger and published author, and 2017 recipient of the prestigeous Kuchling Humanitarian Award from Dallas’ Black Tie Dinner. (Human Rights Campaign) Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He’s a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named “best judge” by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County, and is currently the longest service district judge in that district. She was re-elected for a fourth term in 2018. They have the world’s best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. Find links to Eric’s music-related websites, at the top of this site’s navigation menu.

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