Wednesday, February 24, 2016
The Gift of Pain
Recently, one of my children asked me what caused pain. She had driven a sliver under her nail-bed and was wincing in pain, when she realized that she wasn't bleeding. She wanted to know, in the absence of blood, what caused pain. I began to explain to her that blood, in and of itself, had nothing to do with pain, but that pain was caused by damage or stimuli to nerves. After I explained the physical process of pain, I began to extoll pain's virtue.
Pain, I explained, is our body's warning system - our first and best defense against mortal injury. If you put your hand on a hot burner, pain causes you to immediately remove said hand, saving you from further, potentially significant injury. The intense pain of appendicitis serves to motive the sufferer to seek medical attention before a rupture occurs, effectively saving the life. Pain, although uncomfortable (sometimes unbearably so), serves us by acting as our first alert system.
But pain is even more than just a warning system - it is a tangible component of the refining process, of improving. When we discipline our bodies with a new exercise regime, we often experience pain. When we run, when we bust weights, when we push ourselves, we spend days reveling in the "burn". And most of us would admit that the pain that comes from driving our bodies to the limit is a "good" pain - a well-earned discomfort.
And then there is life-giving pain. Life itself is born of pain. When a mother gives birth to her child, that child draws its first breath amidst blood and tears, and most compellingly, unspeakable pain. And then, lets not forget eternal life - which was brought forth in unfathomable pain upon a cross on a hill. In pain, every one of us was born and in pain we have all been given the chance to be born again.
Although pain is our great servant, we seem to be collectively terrified of pain. The more "advanced" our society has become, the more repulsed we are by pain. As parents, we do everything within our power to shelter our children from any kind of pain, viewing pain as an enemy rather than a friend. We make sure that our houses are "child proof" and our neighborhoods are "safe places". In our attempts to insulate our children from pain, we actually rob them of their first, best security system.
The repercussions of our aversion to pain are no less dramatic in our nation. Our government's constant attempts to keep our citizenry (and by extension, itself) from feeling the "pain" of poor choices has resulted in trauma so gangrenous, so rotten, that the very flesh of our nation is being eaten away. Our nation's internal security system has been dismantled under the guise of a social safety net and in the process, we have produced a suffering, dying civilization. The gift of pain has been replaced by the stench of death.
Pain is not an enemy, it is a servant - a faithful servant, indeed. Pain saves life, encourages robust life and gives life. It truly is a magnificent gift.