The older I get, the more I appreciate pain. I’m not a masochist by any stretch because I don’t like pain any more than the average person. And yet I’ve come to appreciate it.
In years past, when I’d go through a hard time, I’d run from it. I’d try not to feel it or deal with it. But these days, I’ve learned the only way life can actually get better is if I face reality, face my mistakes and liabilities and somehow correct or at least acknowledge them.
In stories, characters only change in crisis. Characters never, ever change when the story is going well. And of course the same is true with life.
Pain is always an invitation to grow. (Tweet This)
Sadly, pain also has the opposite affect. If we cover over our pain with coping mechanisms, it’s as though we are going through a workout without gaining muscle. Some people do this for years and never grow. Ever met a 50-year old who is still making the mistakes of a 19-year old? It’s likely because he never accepted pain and allowed it to change his character.
Here are some ways we can grow when we are in the midst of pain:
1. Accept it: We need to sit with the pain and not run from it. This means we can’t drink it away or make ourselves busy or “start the next chapter” before we’ve wrapped up the previous one.
2. Gain perspective: If we lose a loved one, it likely has nothing to do with us. And yet, we can still ask ourselves what really matters in the face of our pain. We can ask ourselves how we want to live differently because of the pain.
3. Take inventory: There are other kinds of pain, though, that bring us into self reflection. We’d be wise, then, to do some self reflecting. If the pain is relational, I’d encourage going through Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s book Safe People and making an inventory of how you are unsafe. This inventory may help you reorganize your life so you don’t find yourself in the same situation again.
In stories and in life, pain is our friend. It’s an unwelcome friend, but a friend nonetheless. The good news is if we make friends with our pain, it won’t stay long and it will leave us with a gift. But if we avoid pain, it will chase us down until we finally accept the gift it has to offer.