Words of Hope: The Temptation of Pain

Pain is tricky. It makes people uncomfortable. Pain can cause us to make the wrong decisions. I love the training of Ignatius of Loyola who cautions never to make decisions in our pain. I can recognize the wisdom of this advice with my daughters. I hate to see them in pain. Their pain is my pain and I make poor choices when I am not discerning. Some parents get mad at teachers, coaches, friends, etc. when their kids are in pain. Sadly, if I do not discipline myself, I can get mad at my girls. In this lapse, I don’t comfort them the way I would like.

It is such illogical behavior on my part. Why would I want to get mad when my child is in pain? One reason is because anger is a great motivator. I get so much done when I am angry. I can clean the house like a pro. When I feel pain about my children’s pain, I come across to my girls as they did something wrong, and they must make immediate choices to fix what they did. I don’t want to sit in the pain or listen to them cry, I want them to fix the pain. This is a sad way to relate.  

Gratefully, I am usually able to notice this tendency and change it, but it always surprises me that this compulsion is in me. Thankfully, I have worked hard to be compassionate, listening, and understanding when my girls are in pain, but it is intentional work for me that isn’t easy or natural.  

I think of how many poor and painful experiences, exchanges, and situations come because we cannot manage our pain. We blame a coach, a friend, a family member, a political party, or a worldview. Anger diverts our attention, gives us energy, gives us motivation and yet the anger and blame lead us further from love and further from health.  

Dad had to work on this as well. He naturally handled pain with the desire to fight. He became intense when one of us felt pain when I was younger. Cancer was a powerful teacher for him. I learned so much from watching Dad step into greater patience while in pain. He had to learn to manage his pain without getting angry or frustrated at others. When you feel miserable, it is challenging to avoid being short tempered. I admire how much effort Dad put into navigating his physical and emotional pain about cancer with wisdom and grace.  

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness or peril or sword. Just as it is written, ‘For your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughter.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” – Romans 8:35-37