Pain is inevitable. At some point, each of us will feel pain. Some will experience child abuse. Others will experience spousal abandonment or the death of a loved one. Still others will experience a debilitating disease, tragic accident, prolonged unemployment, or financial ruin.
In the midst of suffering, we might be quick to compare our pain to another’s. It’s easy to point fingers and wish you had life as “easy” as she does, but pointing fingers is an injustice – both to the receiver and to the pointer.
Finger pointing or wishing you had her life doesn’t get you through pain you’ve been permitted. Getting through pain begins with one major step forward.
Moving away from physical pain is instinctive. Avoidance of pain keeps us from walking into heavy traffic and spending our entire paycheck on lottery tickets.
It’s easy to understand why and how to avoid physical and financial pain, but emotional pain is different. Emotional pain can begin through external stimuli but is always deepened internally and in secret. Emotional pain keeps a wounded soul reaching out to the wrong people and privately repeating lies about her shortcomings. This is part of what makes an abandoned spouse reach out to her husband in times of need.
Picture a wife stranded with a flat tire on the side of the road. In the past, her husband would have rescued her. This time however, her husband rebuffs her and tells her (maybe in different wording but with the same message) that she is not worth his time. Pain caused by the flat tire is nothing compared to the stress of being stranded, which is compacted by knowing she is alone. The pain of being alone is further compacted by perceived feelings of worthlessness and foolishness in hoping for help from her husband. The mental flogging the stranded woman gives herself far surpasses the pain of the flat tire.
Maybe you feel like that woman. Maybe you are stuck on the side of the road, stranded, and going nowhere. Maybe you’re watching other cars speed by and wish you were riding in them. Maybe you’re reaching out and flagging down any car so you can retell your story. Maybe you’re mentally, emotionally, and spiritually beating yourself up and have lost sight of your destination.
Sitting on the side of your life doesn’t get you through the pain of your life, and rehashing your story keeps you in the past. You have to pick yourself up by stopping your talk of the flat tire and working to fix it. Then you have to climb back in your car and get back on the road even when it’s scary.
You can’t do that by coveting the life of another, by rehashing your story to anyone who will listen, or by denying that you are fearfully and wonderfully made!
You move ahead by deciding to get back in traffic. You move ahead by deciding to grow rather than go. You move ahead by deciding not to be jealous of others but to give thanks for the good they are experiencing in this moment. You move ahead by deciding to pray that others understand that every moment is a gift.
You decide to pray that you see this painful moment of yours as a gift even when you can’t understand or value it properly. You decide to stop talking badly about the gift of this moment. You decide to stop relying on the validation and reassurance your victim status brings. You decide to stop talking badly about your pain to yourself. You decided to stop talking badly about yourself!
The woman on the side of the road knows the pain of staying roadside forever outweighs the pain of doing what’s needed to fix the tire. When the day is done and she has returned home, she may be exhausted mentally and physically, but she can still make decisions about growing through her experience.
She can decide to wallow in defeat or she can find value in lessons about car care which limit the possibility of being stranded again. More importantly, she can decide to look back with gratitude that she now knows how to handle such a situation. She can be proud of herself for what she has learned and thankful to God for having shown her she can do things she never dreamed she’d be capable of!
Eventually she can even decide to be grateful for the flat tire and the growth being stranded brings!
You face the same decisions.
We learn more through pain than through any other life experience, but we have to decide to learn. We have to want to grow through rather than go through pain. We have to understand that growing takes patience and deciding to embrace continuous movement, sometimes inch by inch, over sitting idly on the side of the road.
For more on this and Saturday’s video on dealing with pain, subscribe to my newsletter and check out my new online life coaching community Embracing Joy, which begins this Spring.