Pain happens. Not because of some karmic debt we have to pay. Not because we need to be tested. And certainly not because we need to be taught compassion and empathy. That last reason makes the least sense to me. It’s usually presented like this: “God wants you to learn how to be kind and comforting to others who go through hard times, so He’s making you suffer now.”
Really? That’s about as smart as me telling my daughter, “Honey, I’ll hurt you now so that, when I decide to hurt your sister, you’ll remember how awful it felt to be in pain. You’ll be able to relate to your sister’s pain and comfort her.” I’m positive my daughters would (secretly or not) come to think of me as of a sadistic, deranged parent. Rightfully so, I might add.
I have the bad tendency to chase many rabbits with my blog posts. It would be very easy to start talking about Karma now and the witch we want it to be. Or about God, the way we misunderstand Him, the way we make Him be a puny, vengeful, distant god, the way we mold Him according to our own limited knowledge. I won’t do that. I’m saving it for a series I’ve been working on for the past few weeks.
Instead, I’ll stay focused on today’s topic: pain and healing, a topic inspired by Souldier Girl’s poem, Ain’t No Sunshine.
Pain happens because it does. That’s it. It’s a simple fact of life. Some people learn empathy and compassion from it. Some don’t. They become angry and start causing pain themselves. You have the two extremes here:
- The kind smile and helping hand which, despite being hiding places for pain, tap into their own experience and reach out to comfort;
- The mean, arrogant, rude gesture which wants to inflict pain and is only a mirror of one’s own suffering.
Like everyone else, I’ve been both: the comforting hand and the angry witch. I’ve noticed something though: the older I get, the less witchy I become. It’s not just because I’m wiser and realize how few things matter enough to cause pain. It’s also because I learned firsthand that anger amplifies pain. The meaner or angrier I get, the more I suffer.
You could say that my current self is nicer than my younger self because I’m both more selfless and more selfish than I used to be. Makes sense, right?
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that we shouldn’t see the painful events in our lives as some sort of deserved or undeserved lessons or punishments. They do bring suffering. They do teach us lessons. But these are consequences of those experiences, not reasons for them.
I’ll use the mother-daughter example again. I’ve already established that purposely hurting my daughter to teach her compassion would be cruel and dumb. But what if I see her fall down and hurt herself while playing? Should I go to her and say, “You deserve to get hurt. You weren’t being careful?” Of course not. That’s equally dumb and cruel. See, my daughter might have fallen down because she wasn’t careful. But maybe she fell down because someone bumped into her. Or she had poor balance. Or she was dizzy from spinning too much. Or she was too busy looking up at the stars and didn’t see the gutter. Who knows? Many things could have led to her falling. But to think, even for a second, that Karma, or nature, or God conspired to make her fall … well, I hope I don’t have to explain why that’s a ridiculous idea.
What I will do if I see my daughter fall is go to her, help her up, and say, “Are you OK?” Once I reassured myself she was indeed OK, I’ll ask what happened. She might be able to tell me. She might not. Regardless, I won’t stop her from playing again. But I’ll make sure that, when she goes back in the game, she won’t be angry or too cautious. That would make her a terrible player to her teammates and it would also ruin the game for her.
Instead, I’ll teach her that falling is part of life and the sooner we learn that, the faster the healing, the smaller the suffering. Because, here’s something important: I know that pain is inevitable. I know that my reaction to it can be controlled and channeled into something that could help others. But that doesn’t mean I don’t suffer. It doesn’t mean I don’t need time to heal. Worst of all, it doesn’t mean I don’t know that, in some cases, healing never comes.
If that last sentence depressed you, I apologize for it. I’m not a negative person, but neither am I the naïve one who sees everything through rose-colored glasses. I don’t think that time heals all wounds. To keep this blog post short(-ish), I’ll expand on the healing topic in a “Part Two”, next week.
Until then, I hope to leave you with a few helpful things:
- Pain happens. Don’t torture yourself even more by trying to find a hidden meaning behind it.
- Learn what you can from it and try to move forward as a better person.
- Don’t expect full healing but do expect to be able to fully enjoy life again.
As I said, this post was inspired by Souldier Girl’s poem Ain’t No Sunshine. It was written in the memory of the daughter she lost eight years ago. Poems like these are heartbreaking, yet they are also a source of comfort. They are reminders of other people’s strength and kindness. I hope you’ll find some comfort in it too. And, if you feel like crying after reading it, do it. Personally, I found out tears are to a broken heart what oil was to the Tin Man: a way to get unstuck and get moving again.
One last thought (just because I can’t stop talking): remember that, pain and all, life is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.