Shared pain, shared experience

Pain is a gift.

I realize saying that may make a few people stare at me oddly.  And people currently in the throes of pain may resent me, but it’s a topic worth addressing.  We need to get past the stage of suffering where we eagle-eye focus in on ourselves.  We need to get to the point where we think of our pain in relation to each other.  Think about what pain really does in our lives- not simply the part where we feel our pain, but the part where we open up to each other, learn to depend on each other, and learn to hold others who are crying.

Without the pain, none of these experiences would be possible.  If Billy couldn’t feel physical pain, and then a friend of his scraped a knee, how do you think that Billy might respond?  I can only imagine the conversation:

Billy:  Why are you crying?

Timmy:  Because I scraped my knee.

Billy:  But it’s not even bleeding.  Why would you cry?

Timmy:  It hurts.

Billy:  Hurts?

Timmy:  (pinches Billy) Hurts.

Billy:  Why did you do that?

And so on, and so on…  Because Billy’s lack of pain bars him from imagining his friends pain, and that lack of imagination bars him from sympathy.  He may intellectually rationalize that his friend is reasonable, and therefore must have a reason for expressing agony, but he cannot truly empathize.

Our pasts are our gifts to our future friends and family.  All of our shared experiences bind us together in a way we could not be bound if it weren’t for mutual suffering and mutual love.  Every blah day and every dreary evening make up part of a bigger global picture, one in which we are part of a universal community.  Our microwaved lunches and lemonades on the porch, or tearful arguments and celebrations are all part of the picture that makes up humanity.

Cherish it.  Cherish the heartache and the bliss.  Cherish the doldrums and the excitement.  Cherish even the pain and agony, as that pain reminds you of your humanity.  And it reminds you of something greater, of the Son of Man come down to earth to walk in our skin, to share in our humanity, and even to suffer.

The Word became Flesh, and dwelt among us…

15 thoughts on “Shared pain, shared experience

  1. Wow Lindsey, what a beautiful posts and so very true. There was a time where I resented the pains from the past but I too realized that those experiences helped shape me into a more compassionate and empathetic person. Although it is terribly hard to be thankful for pain, those painful times are the very ones I learned the most from. Thanks again for this post.

  2. I am always amazed (and pleasantly surprised) at how you manage to come up with beautifully written, thought-provoking posts day after day.

    Your post is so true – like wvhillcountry said above, I used to question why I had to go through certain painful experiences – until I met people who had gone through the same thing and we were able to comfort and encourage each other and ended up making huge differences in each others lives. Not to mention, for me at least, becoming much more empathetic and understanding.

    Thanks again for your post!

  3. You are like a current version of John Donne:

    “No man is an island. entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;…..any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” meditation #17

    We should learn to embrace the pain we have experienced because it does make us better people.

    Thank you the post.

  4. I read a book when I was a kid called the Gift of Pain. It was about a missionary who worked in a leper colony. Due to leprosy people couldn’t feel pain in parts of their body so they would be injured and not realize it. As a result severe infection would set in and the person would get sick.

  5. Hi Lindsey,

    Our conversation today, and this post really give meaning to otherwise incomprehensible pain and suffering. From my own experience, I learned a lot from my own trials this year, and it has helped me have a greater understanding and compassion for others.

    And you remind us of the ultimate suffering, that of Jesus, who came to save us all, and with him, we do not travel alone.

    Thank you for another wonderful post.

  6. Excellent post Lindsey.

    For me I can say that NEVER in the midst of pain have I been thankful for it, but ALWAYS in looking back I’m grateful….grateful for all that came from the experience in terms of deeper insights, compassion, and understanding AND grateful for having come out the other side.

  7. When you consider the body builder and pain; he/she must push their muscles to the extreme, it (literally) tears them down and is painful but they know what the end result will be.

    Pain can, in fact, join us together. The death of a family is a perfect example! anita’s response is typical (I think). In that in the midst of pain it is next to impossible to see what benefits may come of it (unless of course you are training for Mr./Ms Universe).

    I think the human being that needs to change some bad habit or improper behavior and can do it without pain is incredibly rare. (ie a person who spends recklessly, gets carted off to jail for writing bad checks, a spouse gets caught being unfaithful, etc.). Things of that nature bring pain on more than the individual.

    I will have to confess to only a partial agreement with Lindsey on “All of our shared experiences bind us together in a way we could not be bound if it weren’t for mutual suffering and mutual love.” Maybe I haven’t learned how to “read” her yet but I don’t think the sheep and the goats are bound together at all. We have had the same experiences but we are clearly (since this is a religious forum) not bound together.

  8. M54, doesn’t being human (regardless of one’s beliefs) more or less make for common experiences, including that of pain and suffering?

    If you believe that Christ was incarnate and died for all, well, then…

  9. Everyone: Thank you so much for your comments!

    e2c: Well said, well said!

    M54: But we are all humanity, and God loves and desires to be with all of us, does he not? Where our quest for holiness sets us apart from others, it is our failings and shared pain that bind us together and remind us why we need the divine.

    Jaklumen: could you expand? That comment reads to me as very cryptic.

  10. I’m not usually one to go around pasting quotes into comments, but it seems like this one is appropriate to the discussion…

    Hebrews 2:9 (Wycliffe New Testament) –

    …but we see him that was made a little less than angels, Jesus, for the passion of death crowned with glory and honour, that he through [the] grace of God should taste death for all men.

    This is one of the passages that was in the back of my mind when I posted my st reply (above).

    And Lindsey, thanks for fixing my tagging error! 😉

  11. Good points – Biblical and everything! – Philippians 3:10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

    It is counter-intuitive, but when we share those things with people it takes relationships to a deeper level.

  12. Good post Lindsey, and thanks for reminding me of this bit from Kahlil Gibran’s ‘The Prophet’:
    Then a woman said, “Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.”

    And he answered:
    Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
    And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
    And how else can it be?
    The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
    Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
    And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
    When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
    When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

    Some of you say, “Joy is greater thar sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
    But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
    Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

    Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
    Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
    When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.



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