On Bearing the Pain
One of the paradoxes of forgiveness is that as we give mercy to those who showed no mercy to us, we are doing moral good. Another paradox is this: As we bear the pain of the injustice, that pain does not crush us but instead strengthens us and helps us to heal emotionally.
When we bear the pain of what happened to us, we are not absorbing depression or anger or anxiety. Instead we realize that we have been treated unfairly—-it did happen. We do not run from that and we do not try to hurriedly cast off the emotional pain that is now ours. We quietly live with that pain so that we do not toss it back to the one who hurt us (because we are having mercy on that person). We live with that pain so that we do not displace the anger onto others who were not even part of the injustice (our children or co-workers, for example).
When we bear the pain we begin to see that we are strong, stronger actually than the offense and original pain. We can stand with the pain and in so doing become conduits of good for others.
Today, let us acknowledge our pain and practice a paradox: Let us quietly bear that pain and then watch it lift.
Hospice workers, when working with grieving family members, ask them to “lean into the pain,” which seems to me another way of saying what you are saying. The key is not to run from the pain. That is when people turn to drink and pleasure to mask the pain. Stand in the pain and wait. This is good advice.
But what if that emotional pain threatens to overwhelm us? Then what?
Chris, there always is professional help when we are feeling overwhelmed beyond our capacity to endure. Bearing the pain is not the kind of response that tends to overwhelm most people. The original injustice and its aftermath might be the culprit for that. Bearing the pain happens after all of that pain descends on us. We then are working our way out of the pain, not deepening it.
The idea of bearing the pain scares me. I ask myself what if the pain sticks to me and doesn’t let up?
It probably is not the bearing of the pain that is the issue but what you suffered when you were hurt. I have tried this exercise of bearing pain and it works. At first you might feel overwhelmed because of the flood of emotions as you do this but it gets better. With practice it definitely gets better.
Bearing the pain for others is one of the strongest things we can do in this life. We are saying that their nastiness will not make me into a nasty person. This is a very positive way to live and we should practice this on a daily basis.
Bearing the pain of what happens to us is a far less burden to carry than the weight of resentment. Neither are pleasant, but bearing the pain of forgiveness will not drag us down as resentment does.