The Problem of No Pain…
Years ago, I read a book entitled, The Problem With Pain. The book was written by C.S. Lewis for the Christian audience, but that isn’t the point. The point is that the title implies that pain is a problem.
Before I go any further, I am not proposing that we actively seek out pain, life deals us enough over time. What I am saying is that pain is a normal part of life. Seeking to avoid it at all costs will only lead to more pain until it eventually forces you to look at the underlying issue causing it.
That said, it seems like most folks do the exact opposite, and as a society, we spend a lot of time, energy, and resources, doing the very best to avoid pain…at all costs.
A Generation of Painlessness
In my latest book, Extraordinary Results for Life (coming out June 27, 2022), I refer to the topic of helicopter parenting. These are the parents who swoop in at any sign of pain or discomfort in their children. This certainly has a detrimental effect because it impairs their ability to realistically navigate through life.
I then go onto discuss a new category of parenting known as lawnmower parents. These are the parents who now mow a path in front of their children so they will not have to face any pain or adversity in their life. The result is a generation of children who believe that life should be nothing but pleasure, who crumble or retreat at the very first sign of discomfort.
The problem is this pain-avoidance is creating a false narrative about the reality of life. Believing one can live a life free from pain robs a person of the truth that a normal life contains both joy and pain. You cannot live a fulfilling life, a life that is whole, without experiencing both side of life, the pain and the joy.
Unfortunately, this pain-avoiding phenomenon has reached beyond the younger generations and has infected a much larger percentage of our society.
Pain and the Pandemic
The last few years have certainly elevated the level of pain and discomfort throughout the world.
The level of pain and suffering has been greatly magnified as the Covid-19 pandemic swept through our homes, our communities and our lives. Forcing people into isolation, loneliness, and an overall separation from the communities they were a part of pre-pandemic. People were angry and felt like they were losing control of their lives, as the battle lines were drawn among the inconsistent messages that flooded the media.
As a result, pain, depression and isolation levels sky-rocketed. To quell the pain folks reached out to alcohol, drugs, online gambling, and many other forms of addiction, including binge-watching television in an attempt to numb the pain or grab some sense of control.
What Pain Teaches
In his latest book entitled, Things Hidden, author, Richard Rohr, writes, “Pain teaches a most counterintuitive thing—that we must go down before we even know what up is. Suffering of some sort seems to be the only thing strong enough to destabilize our arrogance and our ignorance. I would define suffering very simply as “whenever we are not in control.”
Instead of leveraging this discomfort and pain and using it to reach out and help each other, we seem to have gone the opposite way and become more self-centered, more obsessed with ourselves, more arrogant, and more entitled than ever.
This flies in the face of what the great religions and the world’s greatest teachers have been teaching us throughout the history of humankind, that life is not about us and we are not the center of the universe!
Get Out: Of Your Way
So what do we do with this? What can we learn from this? How do we find our way out of this dilemma?
I am learning that the way out of this dilemma is to get out of my own head, my own way, and focus outwardly on others. It is teaching me to become more other-centered than self-centered. To look at how I can be of service to others instead of serving myself. This is simple in theory, but it is very difficult in practice.
It requires humility and acceptance of what is, instead of trying to manipulate and control everything and everyone around me. And believe me, humility and acceptance are not at the top of the list that the people who know me best would say are my best attributes!
Again, it is simple, but it is not easy! But that will never stop me from trying.
Embrace it All
If I can just take three steps forward, knowing that I will eventually take one or two steps back at times, at least I know I am moving forward. It is progress, not perfection.
Holding onto the belief that I can do this perfectly is no different than believing I can live in the all-joyful, happy-all-the-time world, 100% of the time, never having to experience sadness or pain.
In other words, I need to embrace both sides of life: the good and the not-so-good, the pain and the joy, feeling love and at times feeling rejected, the ups and the downs, knowing that taking a few steps back goes hand in hand with taking a few more steps forward!
It means I embrace the whole of life so that I can experience life to its fullest. The way life was intended to be lived, embracing pain and not seeing it as a problem, while also embracing the joy!