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The Pain We Carry

 

          All of us carry pain.  For sure, some of us carry more pain than others, but this doesn’t change the fact that we all carry pain.  It is impossible to live in this life without this to be true because the world we live in is fallen and we are fallen and we are sinners.  As sinners we hurt one another.  Additionally, bad things happen to us that are often out of our control.  Call them accidents or tragedies if you like, but they still happen.  Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation, but fear not for I have overcome the world.”  My daughter Jenna’s death is an example of this that hits as close to home as anything that has ever happened to me.  Because of her passing I carry a pain that I experience everyday.  I’m sure it will be with me to some degree to my dying day.  While sharing this with you, it is important for me to also state that Jenna's death is not the reason for this article.  I knew we all carry pain before her passing and could have written this before she died.  Her death only reinforces what I want to write to you. 

          When we hurt each other, intentionally or not, and bad things happen to us the result is pain.  Since pain feels bad we often try to minimize it by suppressing and repressing it.  In this way we push the pain down or sweep it under the rug.  When we do this we pay a steep price.  The price comes in the form of psychological symptoms, relationship problems, self-destructive behaviors, and by doing the same negative things over and over again.  When we don’t deal with the pain that we carry we end up hurting ourselves and other people.  There is a saying that “hurt people hurt people” and this is true.  This is a nice short way of saying what I am writing to you.  Another way to say it is that “people who carry pain share that pain with others and this in turn makes them carry pain.”

          Most of the time we are not in touch with the pain that we carry.  We are so good at hiding our pain from ourselves that I suspect many of you reading this are having a hard time understanding what I am saying.  You are so out of touch with your pain that what I am writing to you, on the surface, makes no sense.  Maybe you think this carrying of pain could be true, but that it is not true of you.  Prayerfully, there are those of you out there who have discovered the pain you have carried and, with much bravery, have faced it and helped integrate this pain into the rest of your personality.  The heart and soul of counseling is helping people uncover the pain that they don’t even know they are carrying, and once revealed, to tackle it head on.  This is often a tedious and time consuming endeavor.  By doing such brave work, people are able to break the vicious cycles of hurting and abusing themselves and others.  This is why the work of counseling is so important and profound.

          One woman couldn’t face the pain in her life and as a result she had a food addiction.  What she lacked in her marriage and because of the pain of being rejected and neglected by her father she always had to have sweets around.  If she did not have them nearby she would get extremely nervous and agitated.  Another man was so crippled by the fact that he didn’t receive the approval from his father that he was disabled to the point of not being able to keep a job.  He ended up being taken care of by the state because he could not take care of himself.  His father had unintentionally rejected him from the start of his life so that during his formative years a pattern of self-destructive behavior was set in motion.  It became the overwhelming issue driving his life and imprisoned him into a life-long struggle with self-destruction.  It was as if he had to walk through life with huge boulders tied to his ankles that he had to pull along wherever he went.  Life for him was always tiring and a constant uphill struggle.  It was as if he had to walk the same path as everyone else but with little food or nourishment while others blamed him for this as they went by him with full bellies.  Another man who was in full-time Christian ministry and married with children came to see me because he was a closet homosexual.  He would secretly stop at rest areas and men’s bathrooms in department stores scouting for and hooking up with other homosexual men.  When I asked for his family history he told me that his father was a convicted pedophile that rejected him and pushed him toward his mother.  He was disgusted by his father and hated him, but he also deeply needed his father’s approval.  Based on how his father treated him, he might as well as come out and said to him that he saw his son as a woman.  I believe he had these homosexual trysts in order to get the attention and approval from men.  The pain of his father’s rejection was temporarily suspended when he would hook up with total strangers with whom he would never meet again.  The problem of course is that the pain would be relieved only temporarily until he decided to go back and get another fix.  I could go on and on about other stories, but I think you get the point.           

          In order to get in touch with the pain you carry, ask yourself about your character defects.  Be honest with yourself about the symptoms you have in your own life.  Then know that behind these defects and symptoms lies a reservoir of pain that you are carrying.  This pain needs to be confessed to another human being and talked about in detail.  You then need to grieve the loss that has come from the way significant people in your life have hurt you.  Just as I allow myself the right and freedom to cry when I feel the pain of Jenna’s loss, so too do you need to cry over the losses you have experienced.  Crying is God’s way of cleansing our souls.  It doesn’t mean you are weak.  On the contrary, crying takes a lot of courage.  Big boys and girls do cry and need to cry to the right person and in a safe place.

          Through this process your burden will become lighter.  The weight of pain that you carry will become lighter and your need for symptoms will decrease.  You will grow emotionally, spiritually, and relationally.  It is a terrific way to be your own best friend and to be self-loving.  God doesn’t want you to be destructive toward His creation.

                         God bless you in this process,

                         Paul