Pain is Pain

Our brokenness is always lived and experienced as highly personal, intimate and unique. I am deeply convinced that each human being suffers in a way no other human being suffers. No doubt, we can make comparisons; we can talk about more or less suffering, but, in the final analysis, your pain and my pain are so deeply personal that comparing them can bring scarcely any consolation or comfort. In fact, I am more grateful for a person who can acknowledge that I am very alone in my pain than for someone who tries to tell me that there are many others who have a similar or worse pain.            ~ Henri Nouwen

Pain is so deeply private and intensely personal. How often have you shared just a bit of yours, only to have someone say: just be thankful that… No wonder we put barbed wire on the fences.

Not only do other people minimize our suffering, we do it to ourselves. Instead of just acknowledging it, we seem to think it’s more Godly to qualify it. We say things like: It’s my own fault for… or There are so many who have it so much worse… True or not, that doesn’t invalidate the pain.

I’m a temporary resident of Texas where it’s extremely hot. It hasn’t been under 100 degrees for almost 2 months. In the NE, rivers and towns and homes are flooding. It’s heartbreaking and horrible. Both are real. Does the disaster in the NE make it not hot in Texas?

Is there always someone whoose suffering is worse. Yes. Always. But we aren’t comparison shopping. We’re told to weep with those who weep. We’re never told to help them gain perspective or to evaluate the worthiness of their weeping.

We don’t need to qualify pain. We do need to stop minimizing each other’s suffering and start maximizing the comfort we give by the simple grace-filled act of offering compassion.

Author: Debbie

A former counselor and public speaker, I'm grateful for many, many things - God's grace most of all!

14 thoughts on “Pain is Pain”

  1. First of all, I’m sorry you are having to share this Texas experience with us. This has been dreadful.
    I appreciate this entry. I agree 100% with what is expressed here. We need to stop playing down each other’s pain. I do say, “It could always be worse,” but usually in reference to my own pain, not to someone else’s. But you are so right in saying that Scripture never tells us to help people “gain perspective.” Well said!

    1. Jeff – Thank you for your comment and your empathy! As miserable as the heat is, the drought is so devastating. I feel so sorry for all you Texans.
      I’ve been on several ranches where they have to truck in water or sell their cattle,They can’t plant their hay and literally are praying for a hurricane.
      Are you OK?
      Praying for you all and praying for rain,
      ~ Debbie

      1. We’re okay. We live in a suburb of Fort Worth, and have no significant land. Just the 1/4 acre our house is on. It’s pretty unbelievable, though, how long this has gone on. And there’s not a drop in the forecast into mid-September. The prayers are appreciated.

    2. Jeff – glad to hear you guys are OK. Sounds like the fires are finally under control. It was 104 here today but next week looks cooler – although still no rain. So sad.
      ~ Debbie

  2. I read this from my phone sitting on the plane yesterday but wasn’t able to comment. Wonderful truth is here. I think I’ve seen it most working among the men in our program. When one of them shares some hard things, perhaps has to take a moment to regain composure, the others wait so patiently, sometimes even telling him it’s alright. What grace they show and how they teach me. Thanks, Debbie.

    1. Thank you, Debby. Somehow, somewhere, we seem to have gotten the idea that we can help by doing just the opposite of what your guys do. We interrupt, we correct and we minimize. They are a wonderful example of grace.
      ~ Debbie

  3. Your words spoke straight to my heart this morning, Debbie. I need to learn to give grace — to myself — to accept the pain without constantly seeking to minimize it, remembering always to give grace, love deeply from a heart of compassion, and to simply weep with those who weep. Thank you!

    1. Cindee – You have such a gentle spirit. I’m guessing you are far more gracious with the pain of others than with your own.
      Did I mention that I used to begin every Dr’s appointment my apologizing for complaining?
      What’s interesting to me, now, is that the people who really want to know me want to know my physical and emotional pain and are a bit put off by my continual glossing over (not that I need to make it the main topic of conversation, just an honest answer).
      Those who don’t want to know me, don’t ask, or if they do, don’t listen anyway, so no risk there.
      Thank you for sharing here. I really value your thoughts.
      ~ Debbie

    1. Jill – That’s why I would never make a good Dear Abbey. I used to read her column and think : Really people, this is the big crisis in your world, your mother, daughter, sister – in-law insists on bringing bean, tofu, zucchini to dinner even though she knows you hate it…. 😉
      As a counselor, I learned early on not to say or show my surprise! Now, I’m trying to learn to have the heart that conveys grace, not just the face.
      ~ Debbie

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