Pain serves a purpose


Someone recently told me that I was a master of pain.

I never gave thought to my pain except to focus on all the ways I was hurting, and where I felt that pain. Usually for me it’s in my throat… so much that I want to say but won’t because I fear I will hurt someone’s feelings. So when he said that, I really had to think, deep and hard.

Physical pain is easy to accept. I remember when I had a freak accident around the Savannah many years ago. I was jogging with a friend and am not sure what happened (maybe I hit an uneven bit on the path) but the next thing I knew I was stumbling forward landed on pitch, taking all of the impact on my face. At the time I was heavily into making my 10,000 steps a day and so I got up and started to walk. We had gotten to Jerningham Avenue at this point and my car was parked opposite QRC. My friend wanted to know if I wanted to go to the hospital. “No”, I reasoned, “let’s just walk back to the car – I haven’t yet completed my 10,000 steps.”

Now understand that my face was in terrible shape. I didn’t know this yet until I recoiled from the sight of my own face in the rearview mirror, once I got to the car. But in that moment, while my face was swelling exponentially, and blood was dripping from cuts on both knees, I charged forward, despite whatever pain I felt to complete what I had set out to do: make my 10,000 steps.

Not so with emotional pain.

Sometimes we fight it… fight to suppress it. If that is not successful, we cry or get angry. Oftentimes we don’t accept that what we are feeling is necessary. We want it to go away. We tell ourselves that perhaps we shouldn’t even be feeling what we are feeling. That we are wrong to feel the way we do.

Today I can tell you that pain is a messenger, if only we sit with it and listen long after our cries of anguish have settled.

We are never taught how to deal with emotional pain in the world of work. We are asked to leave our emotional baggage at the door, as if that is possible! We are told to “suck it up” if we feel sad that we didn’t get the promotion, or chosen to work on the big project… that “that’s life”, as if what we feel is invalid. We are encouraged to excuse someone’s toxic behaviour because that’s just who they are and they don’t really mean anything and so we end up feeling very comfortable with our own unhappiness instead of asking for what we really need.

Pain lets us know that a need is not being filled or that we are neglecting ourselves in some way.

Pain left unattended, pops up at the most inopportune time and can be very embarrassing, if we don’t reflect on what is really going on, beneath all that pain.

Have you noticed that if you neglect pain, it doesn’t go away?

I had spent years of mastering neglecting my own needs. In the name of taking the high road, or just being good, I put the needs of others before my own. I told myself that I would get lagniappe blessings in the afterlife.

Yet when people didn’t reciprocate, as in, put my needs before their own, I was always hurt.

Some may say that I am unlucky. And perhaps I felt many times like a victim… except when I finally listened to my pain.

Pain is beautiful, purposeful, and necessary.

Whatever, in the moment of pain, you feel the other person should be giving to you: understanding, empathy, caring, love, forgiveness – you need to give yourself.

How many times have you misunderstood your own self, regarded your actions with zero empathy, lived carelessly and made choices that were not for your highest and greater good? And how often instead of forgiving yourself for your misdeeds do your berate yourself over and over again?

Pain is beautiful because it is unique for each and every individual and it is your customized curriculum – learning necessary for your own evolution.

Pain is purposeful because it can teach us things that we would not be able to see otherwise. There is always value in contrast.

Pain is necessary because without it, we would not be able to experience the joys in life.

The truth is this: that only from the pain of imperfection that burns through all of us can we know laughter, love, truth, joy, and grace.

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"Pain serves a purpose"

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