I’ve had a lot of experience with pain in my life; more than some people, less than others. Pain is an unavoidable part of the human experience. In some form or fashion we’ve all hurt.
What determines your character though, is how you handle life’s doses of pain.
When someone hurts you do get upset and spew angry words? Or do you internalize your feelings only to easily overflow at any given moment?
Some of our pain is deeply rooted in childhood issues; like abuse, abandonment or neglect. Some pain happens later in life; a heartbreak, a failed marriage, an illness; the list is really endless.
Pain can look like a betrayal from a close friend. Or the death of a loved one. Or a strained family relationship.
We’ve all heard the phrase “hurting people hurt people”. I’ve always had a problem with that statement. I’m a firm believer that we can always choose how we handle a situation or people that hurt us. That’s the beautiful part about being human, we don’t have to just react like an animal but we can choose what course of action we want to take before we make a move.
The enemy wants us to think we’re totally powerless against whatever comes our way in this world, particularly things that bring us pain. That we have no choice in the matter but to only respond the way we always have or learned as a kid. He wants us to believe that we can’t unlearn old habits and learn new ones. It sounds something like this:
“My mom had this problem and so did my dad, so I guess I always will too.”
“I’m never going to overcome this.”
“It’s just the way I am, I can’t change.”
“Things will always be this way.”
“This is just the way my life is.”
And on. And on.
Let me tell you something and hear me clearly:
YOU ALWAYS HAVE A CHOICE IN LIFE.
Think about it…as a follower of Christ we can choose to obey Him or we can choose not to. God never beats us over the head and makes us choose His way. The enemy is the only one who tries to take away our power by disguising situations to make it seem like we don’t have a choice and that there’s no way out.
So what pain do you have in your life? And how do you handle it? Do you often lash out at people? Do you drown your sorrows in alcohol? Do you smoke to clear your mind?
What about some less obvious coping behaviors like being a control freak, or always having to be in a relationship. Or eating too much, or too little. Or worrying about everything excessively.
I’m not judging, we all handle our pain in different ways. Heck, some people never even get around to admitting they have any pain.
For me handling pain has looked like experiencing bouts of depression as a result of repressed anger, excessive worrying and trying to control situations. As a child I often felt unstable because of various circumstances around me. As I’ve gotten older I can see how I’ve compensated for that by trying to control many things and people around me.
We all handle our pain differently, but I believe the first step to healing is to admit it’s there.
So many people want to deny or down play their pain under the guise of “oh that was so long ago” or “I just don’t think about it”. We live in a society that doesn’t encourage getting to the root cause of our issues so this makes sense. But to eventually be free from any pain in life you have to own it. For example, how often do you hear people say “It really hurts my feelings when you do x,y,z.” or ” I’m honestly still angry about what happened to me as a kid”. We live in a society where people are afraid or don’t know how to own their feelings. They just sweep them under the rug pretending they don’t exist or figuring that the pain will somehow heal itself.
Newsflash! It doesn’t! You have to own it before you can release it!
For me depending on the season in my life owning the pain has looked differently. It’s looked like going to counseling or joining a recovery group. It’s looked like confiding in my accountability partners and my mom. Or blogging, or crying out to God. Or listening to good Christian teaching.
And what I’m learning is ultimately it looks like realizing there’s a higher power that’s even bigger than my pain.
NBA superstar Lamar Odom, was recently hospitalized after over dosing at a brothel. A quick study of Lamar’s past shows he’s well acquainted with pain. As a child his mother died from cancer when he was 12, his dad was a heroin addict and he experienced a death of a child from sudden infant death syndrome. We don’t know how much of his pain had been addressed, but I think it’s safe to say he was still struggling. Just like a lot of people today.
A lot of people deny their pain and instead choose to numb it. This looks like drug addictions, alcohol abuse, too many sex partners and other out of balance behaviors.
However let me be clear, you don’t have to have an addiction to be hurting. A lot of peoples pain is under the surface and it comes out in various ways. Just because you may not abuse any outside substances does not mean you’re not hurting in some way.
In our society women typically are often thought of as the only group that’s afraid of being single, but I know many men like that too. I know a guy, (actually a few) who is terrified of being single. Even though these fears aren’t voiced, because of some abandonment experienced in childhood he’s afraid of being alone and jumps from girlfriend to girlfriend to girlfriend.
He, like many people, doesn’t slow down long enough to acknowledge and address the pain inside. So around that mountain once again they go!
The picture above is of a group of wounded soldiers during World War II, often called the walking wounded. The definition of walking wounded are injured persons who are of a relatively low priority from a first aid perspective. These patients have been hurt but are conscious and breathing and with only relatively minor injuries; thus they are capable of walking. Wikipedia
I think this represents us as a society well. We give our emotional pain low priority on the scale of life and things to do. Our careers, appearances, dating life and weekly reality show fixes are more important than our emotional health. Our drive to get married and start a family is much more important than addressing our pain. And our personal goals and dreams for our life are definitely much more important than addressing our pain. We don’t verbally say this but this is how we behave.
So what will you do with your pain? You have a choice on how you handle it. You have a choice to land on the positive side or the negative side of your circumstances.
“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life.” Deut 30:19