What is the Secret to Living a Long Life?

A student once asked me: “What is the secret to living a long life?”

I responded by stating: “Become a miserable person.  We all know people who are miserable and they seem to live forever. People who are miserable enjoy making other people miserable.    I am convinced that miserable people are energized by making others unhappy. It gives them pleasure to see others suffer.”

Seriously, it seems that people who are caring and considerate die long before their time was due or struggled with ill health, unhappiness or grief.  Good people seem to die younger than people who are uncaring and selfish. 

Why do some good people suffer much more than some rotten ones?

As a rabbi, my honest answer to “Why some good people suffer and why some bad people prosper?” is “I don’t know.”

I don’t know why some unethical people live long, tranquil lives and some ethical people endure sorrow and torment.

I don’t know the reason or if there is a reason. 

My brother-in-law, Dr. Joel Strom, shared with me a possible scientific rationale for why the good suffer and the evil prosper:

“On a psychological level, I think that people one might classify as “good” tend to internalize their own disappointments and take on the pain of others.  Those who you might consider bad (or insensitive) tend to let their feelings out — complain or let out their anger or disappointment.  It is medically obvious that those who internalize angst tend to have more psychological challenges and physical damage due to all the biochemical issues that arise in the body.”

Some things are beyond our understanding and control.

When good people approach me and ask why they’re suffering, I responded by telling them the following:

I believe when experiencing the unfairness of life,

we can let our fear and pain embitter us and rob our lives of pleasure and meaning.

Or we can have the inner strength and determination to live a meaningful and blessed life.  

We can’t let our pain cripple us.  We can’t let our suffering destroy us.

Though we can’t escape suffering, we can decide how we respond to it.

We must aspire to be positive role models to those who will follow us. 

I strongly believe that the lives of good people will endure forever and the lives of bad people will be soon forgotten.

As the rabbis note, “it is the quality of our lives and not the quantity of our lives that truly matters.”



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