Pain Is Not the Enemy

We’ve built a society on avoiding pain.

We tell ourselves we can have what we want, and we can have it easily–with only a little bit of work, only a little bit of discomfort, only a few easy payments. We tell ourselves we have a right to the things we want, that we deserve them, because we’ve been working hard and a new outfit, or a new computer, or a new truck will be good for us. We tell ourselves we can have it all, whatever our definition of it all may be.

Meanwhile, we avoid the things we might do to make a real impact. We have a good idea at work, but keep our mouths shut because our coworkers might think we’re trying to show them up. We tell ourselves we don’t have time to write that book we’ve been thinking about for months, even though we spend two hours every night watching TV or surfing the internet. We convince ourselves we can’t afford to take that $100 night class, but we go to the bar twice a week.

The funny thing is, we know what we have to do. We know we have to work hard to make good money. We know we have to get active to be fit. We know we have to have hard talks with the one we love if we want the relationship to work.

And we know it will hurt to do those things, so we avoid them. Working hard means hours away from home, which means we don’t get to spend as much time as we want with the ones we love, which means they might feel neglected. Getting active means getting up early, or sweating in the evening heat, or bringing home foods that the kids complain about. Having hard talks means making ourselves vulnerable, opening ourselves up to fear and anger and disappointment and–worse–our partner’s fear and anger and disappointment.

But avoiding the pain doesn’t make it go away. It simply shifts it to other forms. Failing to work hard means telling our families we can’t do all the things we want. Failing to get active means living the pain of poor health. Failing to have hard talks means living the pain of a broken relationship. The more we try to avoid the pain of living, the more it takes over every aspect of our lives.

Because it turns out we can’t avoid pain. We’re human, after all.

The real choice is which kind of pain we’d rather endure. And when we’ve chosen, we have to invite it into our lives, make it a companion, embrace it. And before long, we’ll discover the pain we tried to avoid was blocking the path to victory.

Is there a pain you’re avoiding? Try embracing it. See what happens. Then come share it with us here!

I've been a soldier, a dreamer, a working stiff, a leader. A husband, father, example (good and otherwise), and now a survivor. I write about courage, because courage is what enables us to accomplish the impossible. If you draw breath, I love you. If you love in whatever way seems best to you and want others to love in whatever way seems best to them, I am your ally. If you believe someone is less than you because they do not love the way you do, I oppose you. If you see someone as a threat to be abused or destroyed merely because they do not look like you, or love like you, or worship like you, I am your enemy. I am a joyful and courageous man. And I stand with you who love.