Independence Day is fast approaching. On that day we celebrate our declaration of independence from Great Britain in 1776 and our independence as a country today.

As independent as we are in relation to many countries in the world, are we really independent? We could seek answers to this question through many lenses. Today we will choose one.

In my mind and heart, we are not independent as long as we suffer needlessly and as long as we cause needless suffering to others. Now there is some suffering that is simply part of life. And others where it’s a delicate balance.

If lightning strikes someone’s home, simply as a result of natural causes and no negligence on anyone’s part, causing damage to the home and maybe someone in the home . . . that suffering might be so very painful, while at the same time it was from a completely random act of nature. On the other hand, if there is a flood, which causes untold suffering to thousands and thousands of people, and the flood isn’t simply an act of nature, but rather the result of negligence on the part of people and groups whose job it was to keep dams and levees in good, safe, working order . . . then that is needless suffering. I know even with my explanation this is still very delicate. I invite you to stay with the essence, though, and not get lost in the details.

How do we know if we suffer needlessly? If you were wounded as a child – let’s say through abuse or neglect, or even lack of awareness by the one who wounded you – and repair was never made, and you haven’t consciously, purposefully, safely worked through the wounding and its impact on you . . . you are suffering needlessly. And in addition, you are likely wounding others by not working through your own experiences, thus causing them needless suffering.

If we don’t feel our suffering and work with and through it, we will definitely cause suffering . . . needless suffering. Here’s an example that has reflections in many ages . . . how many people and groups have tried to prove that certain others don’t feel, don’t suffer? Too many!

There are many who would use or have used – or misused – science to try to prove this. Meaning to try to prove their own prejudices. Meaning trying to defend their own disconnection from feeling and reality. But how many times and ways has that been done before? What about the argument that Black skinned people have no ability to feel, which was put forth in the days of slavery and beyond . . . and proven wrong? What about the assertion that Jewish people have no ability to feel, used by the Nazis during the holocaust . . . and proven wrong? What about the argument I’ve heard from people whose parents justified their abuse of their children as babies, saying they’re just babies and don’t feel or remember anything? This argument, also, is inaccurate! And what about those who experiment on animals, saying the animals have no ability to feel or would not be able to remember the pain they feel . . . an assertion that evidence is refuting more and more.

What about the Milgram experiment at Yale, in which people (all adults) were urged by “an authority” to inflict pain and suffering on someone (even though the person on the other side was an actor and wasn’t really receiving the shock)? As the result of their own unhealed wounding, the unwitting subjects of this experiment were capable of following orders that caused what they believed wholeheartedly was blatantly needless suffering on total strangers. Perhaps they were afraid of suffering needlessly at the hands of the “authority.” Or perhaps they were afraid of feeling the suffering (from long ago) that not obeying that authority would trigger inside them.

Claiming that some don’t feel pain and suffering has gone on before and continues to go on in our world today, sometimes in blatant ways and sometimes in subtle ways. Anyone who believes others can’t feel pain and suffering is not in reality. Anyone who believes others can’t feel pain and suffering is not in truth. Anyone who tries to teach adults or children that live beings don’t feel suffering is dangerous.

In addition, and this may not need to be said, but I feel called to make sure it is said . . . People who respond to the needless suffering they experience by making sure others experience needless suffering, too . . . destroy the independence they may long for, and the independence we long for, too.

On July 4th, our country will celebrate its independence . . . but we must ask ourselves, “Are we truly Independent?”

Independent? I don’t think so. We cannot truly be independent as long as we don’t heal our own needless suffering, stop inflicting needless suffering on others, and lastly … help those who are suffering needlessly find their way to healing that needless suffering, too. We cannot be truly independent until we are as sure as we can be that none of us experiences needless suffering.

What will you do to heal the needless suffering within yourself, the needless suffering you may cause to others, and by so doing, the needless suffering all over the world?

© Judith Barr 2011



This Independence Day – before, during, and after whatever festivities you have – take time to deeply explore the meaning of Independence . . . and how to heal the wounding inside you to help bring about independence for yourself and our world . . . independence from needless suffering.

How have you suffered needlessly throughout your life, and from what wounds did this suffering inside you emerge? Explore the painful parts of your life – going back as far as you can – and allow yourself to feel, as much as possible, the suffering you carry with you from long ago.

How have you caused others to needlessly suffer? Again . . . explore those times in your life where you have caused pain to others, and feel the feelings that go along with those memories.

If you feel called to share what you find inside yourself, I would welcome and honor an email from you.

Together, we can bring about a deep independence, one that not enough of us aspire to, in our own lives and in our world . . . if we are willing and open to explore and heal the roots of needless suffering in our lives and in our world!

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