It Is What It Is

Did you know there’s a difference between emotions and feelings?

I was reading about it recently. I was also reading about the difference between pain and suffering. The distinction between emotions and feelings is from a secular book on leadership, and the difference between pain and suffering is from a Christian book on spiritual practices.

Interestingly, the two authors are saying similar things. In the first of each of these pairings—the emotions and the pain—these are a bodily experience, typically a reaction to some force acting upon us. They’re not in our control. But what we do with them—that’s in our control.

So when it comes to feeling and suffering—it’s up to us.

When we feel the emotion of sadness, we can own it, deal with it, and release it; or we can ruminate on it, spiraling downward in a vicious cycle.

When we feel pain—whether it’s physical or emotional, we can acknowledge it, learn what it wants to teach us, and move on. Or we can resist it, fight it, wallow and linger in it, turning it into suffering.


“It is what it is.”

I’ve despised this throw-away expression for years now. It’s so cliche. It’s just this meaningless thing that people say. Or so I thought…

I’ve also been reading a book on parenting, because: four kids. The author says that when you feel yourself getting angry, anxious, or otherwise upset, one strategy you can use is to repeat this mantra to yourself: “this moment is as it should be.” This is a hard one for me, because in lots of moments, I don’t believe things are as they should be.

But I get it. She’s saying that as long as we’re resisting how things are, our negative emotions will continue to rage. And we’ll be in no position to help make things better.

This is how it is. It is what it is.

That doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. But if we want to move forward, we need to stop resisting reality. Once we accept reality for what it is, then we can start changing things.

And that’s when things get really interesting…


So yes, it is what it is. But what will it be? You get to influence that. You get to decide how you will respond to everything the universe sends your way. Will you choose to wallow, ruminate, and suffer? Or will you accept, deal, and move on?

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