I hate suffering.
Even the one time I finally gave birth with no pain relief after having tried twice before to do so...this "accomplishment" didn't imbue me with any feelings of empowerment or triumph or confidence, like it seems to for many other women. I just felt seriously traumatized and resolved never to even attempt that again.
(The fact that it was a vacuum-birth compounded the trauma and despite all the propaganda to the contrary, the very experienced & expensive labor coach actually could do nothing to alleviate neither the physical nor the emotional trauma of the event. From what others have described, I suppose I was supposed to feel heroic for going to such lengths to provide for my baby's life and health. But I didn't have any choice because maternal instinct automatically puts the baby's life before the mother's comfort and convenience, and you just end up instinctively submitting to anything that saves the baby. So where's the empowerment or triumph? Nowhere, of course. Instead, I just felt this odd combination of gratitude and trauma. Anyway, later, when I mentioned how traumatic I'd found it, the labor coach responded as if I was a defective outlier, making me feel much worse. So much for support and "coaching"!)
Anyway, my point is that suffering never inspires me to feel like a Big Plucky Winner. I just want the ordeal over with.
So I found the idea of using trials and tribulations to guide me in self-introspection was practical and effective. Likewise, showing gratitude for suffering also reaped a lot of reward. (This idea is found throughout millennia of Jewish sources and concentrated into Garden of Emuna.) And sure enough, cheshbon hanefesh and gratitude often lightened or removed the ordeal. But even when they didn't, at least I had the assurance that the ordeal contained real meaning and would eventually lead to a good outcome.
Yet Hashem bumped me over to a different level around Elul-Tishrei, and I realized I was missing something very important.
To Be That Person, You Need to Gradually Become That Person
Again, the concepts in these books run throughout millennia of Jewish scholarship and are emphasized in all classic Jewish books of mussar, but I guess I couldn't figure out the practical application of these core concepts until I read the above two books.
Or maybe I just wasn't ready for it.
Anyway...building oneself through suffering via different kinds of ordeals is a running theme throughout Tanach and Jewish history.
For example, Yosef Hatzaddik never would’ve merited to be known as “Hatzaddik” if it hadn’t been for resisting Potifar’s wife, then dancing and praying his way through 22 years in an ancient Egyptian dungeon.
No tzaddik in Jewish history became great just by virtue of being raised by great people or being born with superior qualities. They all faced frightening and seemingly unjust tribulations.
In short, in order to become the kind of unmarried young man who can resist the temptations of one of the most beautiful women to ever exist, you have to face the challenge of being tempted by one of the most beautiful women to ever exist—and do so as a young unmarried red-blooded male—like Yosef Hatzaddik.
In order to become the kind of woman whose emuna and prayers produce the miracle of giving birth in old age despite not having a womb, then you need to face the challenge of not having the right anatomy and years of childless marriage without losing your emuna, like Sara Imeinu.
In order to become the kind of Jew who loves the Jewish people so much that even when your own people turn on you without any justice or provocation, you still beg Hashem to show them compassion and even display willingness to forfeit your life on their behalf, then you need to baselessly slandered and unjustly persecuted nearly to death by your own people, just like with Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) Hanavi.
Letting God Guide You Down the Path of HIS Choosing
In this way, you allow Hashem to guide you toward fulfilling your authentic potential.
But what if you feel it’s too much for you? What if you don’t want it THAT much or else you feel like there is just no chance you could ever reach that level?
Well…Hashem decided otherwise, whether you like it or not.
It's very, very strenuous...and it's meant to be that way.
I don't mean to minimize the complexity and difficulty of this struggle.
Like all spiritual efforts, talking about it is much easier than doing it.
Now, maybe you already know all this. Hopefully, you already know all this! Hopefully, this post is old news for you.
Or you might be feeling emotionally swamped and overwhelmed.
You might feel like you're just not up to it.
If that's the case, then please realize the following:
Hashem created you with the potential to be amazing.
You maybe just don't know it yet.