Without pain, there would be no suffering, without suffering we would never learn from our mistakes. To make it right, pain and suffering is the key to all windows, without it, there is no way of life.—Angelina Jolie
As young children, we are taught that expressing our feelings of pain is not acceptable. “Walk it off.” “Suck it up.” “No pain, no gain.” Our intent is to dissuade children from complaining about every little insignificant boo-boo they encounter. “If it’s not bleeding, you don’t need a bandage.” The longer-term effect, though, is that from those very early moments we teach children that feeling and expressing pain is a bad thing. No one wants to hear about your pain. Ignore it and it will go away. Be tough and play through the pain.
Often, however, that strategy backfires on us. My father’s youngest sister succumbed to cancer perhaps sooner than was necessary because she chose to treat the pain, not the cause. Rather than being consistent with the chemotherapy, she chose alternative treatments that only covered up the pain. Only when the pain became intolerable did she return to her doctor, and by then the cancer had spread too for treatment to be effective. She didn’t even communicate to her family that anything was wrong until the pain became debilitating. She didn’t want them to worry. She had seven children and wanted to put pain aside to care for them. While her attitude might seem noble, in the end it took her from them sooner than might have been necessary.
Philosopher/poet Kahlil Gibran penned these wise words:
Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its
heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the
daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem
less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart,
even as you have always accepted the seasons that
pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the
winters of your grief.
As we get older, pain becomes a more constant part of our reality. There are some pains, both physical and emotional, that will never go away no matter what we do. Our challenge is to not look at our pain as an inconvenience, but rather an opportunity to learn.