Suck It Up

When I was a kid my parents sent me to summer camp in New Hampshire. This was a great experience. I liked it so much that I worked there as a counselor when I was old enough. At camp we did tons of great things like swimming, sports, and archery, but for me, the most memorable experience was Trip. Once a week, everyone loaded frame packs with supplies and left camp for an overnight trip of canoing, hiking, or rock climbing.

My favorite kind of trip was hiking. If you’ve ever hiked a mountain, you know it’s a physical challenge, especially when you’re carrying your food and shelter on your back. When the terrain got steep, campers got tired and inevitably started complaining. I can vividly recall their pleas:

“How much farther is it?”

“I can’t go any further.”

“My pack is too heavy, can you carry it for me?”

The unfailing reply of the counselors was, “Suck it up”. The intent wasn’t hurtful or malicious, but the group needed to make it up the mountain and back to the campsite before sunset. For this to happen everyone had pull their own weight.

The truth is, the whining campers were nowhere near the point of exhaustion. If they had been, the counselors would’ve noticed the signs and given them care. The kids simply weren’t accustomed to the physical challenge and thought complaining the would alleviate their discomfort.

Once they realized they weren’t getting any sympathy they overcame the discomfort, and in most cases ended up having a great time. In my camp days, I don’t recall a single camper complaining at the top of the mountain.

There are two points to this story, other than making me feel all warm and fuzzy inside:

  1. Complaining doesn’t get you anywhere. If anything, it increases unhappiness by encouraging self pity.
  2. No one likes a complainer. As a counselor, the campers that complained a lot were the hardest to deal with. They made having a good time harder for everyone, including themselves.

There are two ways to deal with an unpleasant situation. You can complain, or you can make the best of it. If you complain, you might feel like you’re getting that negative energy out, but you’re probably not going to cause a positive change. It’s much more likely that your whining will arouse the resentment of those around you, adding to the negativity.

No one likes a whiner. They’re annoying and they hurt the group. Complaining makes life harder for everyone.

Instead, if you determine to master you own suffering, to move past it and focus on a remedy, it’s my experience that you’ll realize it wasn’t so bad in the first place. So much of our suffering comes from dwelling on things and feeling sorry for ourselves. As Milton wrote,

The mind is it’s own place, and in itself, can make heaven of Hell, and a hell of Heaven.

No matter how miserable your predicament, resolve to make the best of things. Conquer the urge to complain, expend your energy in positive action, and without fail your situation will improve, if only by your superior perspective.