We all perceive joy and happiness differently, but pain is the great, beautiful, connector and our world would be lost without it.
Pain is a part of daily life. It varies from mild, dropped-doughnut-disappointment, to the tragic, unsuspected loss of someone you love. It would be a bummer to look your groggy self in the mirror each morning and think, “This is gonna hurt.” However, the morning is a good time for reflection. Here’s one:
This day will bring me joy. It will also bring me pain. I will embrace them both and continue through – true to my purpose, true to my community, true to my spirit (God).
Pain brings us closest to our truth. People hit “rock bottom” after tumbling from false heights down to the reality of who they really are. During natural disasters, people of all races and backgrounds rally together behind the truth that we’re all just humans trying to survive a world that is bigger and stronger than us.
In a world that is sadly divided, pain is the great equalizer – the great connector. A rural Chinese widow can relate to a widow on Park Ave. Their language, in this case, is the same. If we were to list 10 things that caused us pain in our lives, most of the world could relate to all ten because pain is our common language.
It’s a beautiful language. It brings us art and music. It fuels stories that shake us and inspire us. When someone endures tremendous pain yet stays true, we see the good in humanity. We see true, admirable strength. We see timeless beauty. Stories of perseverance through pain help us find perspective on our own pain. “I guess it’s not so bad,” we conclude. We’re able to summon the strength to persevere ourselves.
When we insulate ourselves from pain we lose our humanity. Our ability to empathize dies over time. Power, money, drugs, distraction – all lessen the touch of pain. But when the pain finally does break through – as it always does, it’s not familiar. We forget how to process it and pain can destroy us. It’s a reason why so many people “who have everything” end their lives.
To share your painful experience with another person is inviting that person into your sacred place. Or, so it used to be. Before social media, people didn’t blast their pain for the world to read and see. They saved it for these folks called “friends” who you actually spent time with in person.
Online we see that Debbie is sad about losing her grandfather. Carl lost his job. Something is up with Cheryl because she wants, “silent prayers.” Mike can’t believe the Steelers lost. Sara is upset about something the President said. Stacie can’t find a good man so she posts funny memes about how sad dating is. There’s so much pain out there that we have split it up into rants, gripes, hate and whining. It’s all still pain.
This isn’t sharing our pain. This is insulating ourselves from it with fake attention. Real attention would be someone at your door. Fake attention is a like or a comment. Our spirits know the difference. It’s why we’re the most connected, yet loneliest people who have ever lived.
When we go through pain or share our pain with another person it bonds us like nothing else can. If you ask a championship team about the victory, the first thing they talk about is the hard work it took to get there – the injuries, the setbacks, the losses, the exhaustion. Pain makes the joy worth it. Veterans become “brothers” after struggling to keep each other alive. Siblings that never got along come together to grieve the loss of a parent. You can meet a stranger and discover you both lost a young child and depart dear friends.
With all of the power and beauty and potential that comes with pain, it’s a shame we waste it. There are so many memes on being dependent on wine. We binge watch, scroll and swipe, run or lift, party, smoke, work – anything except lean into the pain we’re feeling then share it face to face with someone close. Did you ever think it was there for a reason? Your pain is shaping who you are. It is guiding your journey. It’s not the joy that defines your character. Happiness doesn’t bond you to the rest of humanity. Pain is the greatest teacher.
We don’t share our pain because the misconception is that pain is equated with sadness. Pain can be sad but it doesn’t have to be. And sadness doesn’t have to define you or rule over you. In fact, the more comfortable you are with experiencing and sharing your pain, the less you will experience sadness. Why? Because you will see pains role in your life. Pain will teach you a deeper gratitude that says, “He died too soon, but I really enjoyed the 42 years he was here.”
You will think, “I’m suffering a loss, but we all must suffer losses sometimes.” You accept pain. Like the Bible says, God causes the rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous. We do have consequences. Some believe in wrath and karma. But pain is not always your fault. Pain is not equated to guilt. It just comes with being alive.
Pain is giving you an opportunity to be connected, to live beautifully, to grow stronger and to know the real value of joy. Whether your pain is the result of a mistake or just a matter of fate, face it. Lean into it. Open up. Share, and truly live.