Fear is a way of thinking
Pain is a state of being
Suffering is a way of seeing
Pain is the sinking of fangs, the sting of the venom. It is the taste of bitter, but alas, you cannot spit. There can be no escaping pain, by its nature—its existence precedes its essence. Fear on the other hand is different. Fear exists only in the mind but is made real by our perception of pain, pain we are yet to feel. In other words, fear is what we feel when we think about pain, pain that is yet to be felt. Suffering cannot exist till pain has come. Suffering exists in the future of pain. Easily mistaken for to be the same thing as pain, suffering is more elusive even to the mindful. It is the feeling we get when we think about pain that has already happened and how we see this pain in context to our lives and the identities we carry.
Picture a snake posed for a strike right in front of you. The thought of the sharp fangs clamping down on your flesh brings fear. The sinking of the fangs into your flesh brings pain. The thought of why it had to be you and not someone else, brings suffering.
Thinkers over the ages have pointed out that humans can go through any “what” as long as there is a sufficient enough “why”. In other words, it is not that we fear pain, or hate suffering. It is that we need purpose for pain to be bearable, palatable even. Socrates, they say, showed no fear when he was faced with a portion of hemlock. This was not because he was above death, but because the purpose of dying to teach his ultimate lesson that death was not to be feared by the philosopher was worth the pain. He even had the option to choose exile, but he insisted on death. When people fast deliberately, it is a lot more bearable than starving because one cannot afford a meal. In both cases, hunger is and the pain of it is constant, but in the former, the reason of seeking purity of the soul or getting a better body lightens the load.
In our efforts to defeat fear, pain and suffering, we often forget that they are just as much a part of life as their counterparts; excitement, pleasure and happiness. So instead of learning to live with them, we instead try to numb ourselves with unearned happiness or blissful ignorance and then wonder why we keep failing to maintain either. It hardly occurs to us to instead seek purpose that gives meaning to our pain. After all, does the knife not owe its sharpness to the sharpening stone? By finding purpose, even pain becomes more bearable, fear dissolves more easily, and suffering can even be sublimated to joy
Pain itself you must understand is not bad, it is only when it is needless and without meaning that it is a curse. So the question is, to what end are you willing to walk on glass? To lose your life? What is it that you will willingly give the gift of your soul?