I believe in pain, physical and emotional. Pain is not an emotion; it is a state of mind. Pain is the sacrifice for knowledge, the bridge to moral strength, and the reason we love excitement, anticipation, and why we start sweating before we do something potentially embarrassing like standing in front of people and giving a speech. This, I believe, because pain is invaluable in its role as a teacher, albeit an unforgiving one. We do not appreciate it, because pain is always seen as another rotten ingredient in the stew of death. Humans have been working toward eliminating pain, making life as pain-free as possible. As the Romans executed Archimedes in an act of stupidity, we are striking down one of the greatest teachers in all of time. I highlight this passage from Dan Brown’s book, Angels and Demons, in which there is a conversation between a Swiss Guard and the camerlengo:
“Imagine you had an eight-year-old son… would you love him?
“Would you do everything in your power to prevent pain in his life?”
“Would you let him skateboard?”
“Yeah, I guess. Sure, I’d let him skateboard, but I’d tell him to be careful.”
“So, as this child’s father, you would give him some basic, good advice and then let him go off and make his own mistakes?”
“I wouldn’t run behind him and mollycoddle him, if that’s what you mean.”
“But what if he fell and skinned his knee?”
“Then he would learn to be more careful.”
“So, although you have the power to interfere and prevent your child’s pain, you would choose to show your love by letting him learn his own lessons?”
“Of course. Pain is a part of growing up. It’s how we learn.”
When you lose a loved one, it is not pain that you feel first. It is a mixture of emotions so thick and discombobulated that it breaks you down into tears of frustration. You feel longing for their voice, their touch, even their scent. You want to tell them how much you love them, but they cannot hear. You wished you spent more time with them, but what’s done is done. You are angry at yourself, angry that you didn’t sit down with them and talked to them. You refuse to accept the truth, you become stubborn and even angrier, until finally your world comes crashing down. They’re gone. It’s this sudden realization that sends you into despair, a gloomy pit of depression. That’s when you must be strong. Feeling pain about their loss would not be what they wanted. You must learn that they are always by your side, as long as you choose to keep them there. You may not be able to see or hear them, but they are there. They live on, in memory. Pain has made me a stronger person; it has made me wiser, and will continue to do so until I die. This is why I believe in pain.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.