The two most powerful forces on earth are love and pain. Love is the most powerful, and the one you hear more about. Think of the mother who picks a car up off her child, or the man who jumps in front of a bullet to save a loved one. Without love, those things wouldn’t be possible. People don’t jump in front of bullets for people without feeling some kind of love for them, and under ordinary circumstances that mother certainly wouldn’t be able to lift the car.
But you rarely hear people talk about pain the same way. Mostly, we see it as just a mine on our path to be avoided, and if we do trip it, we usually only think about getting away as quickly as possible. But by doing so, I believe we’re missing countless opportunities that we don’t even recognize! I heard a line in a movie the other day that there are two kinds of pain: the pain that hurts you, and the pain that changes you. In my experience, that’s typically true. Most pain only hurts, but when something continues over a long period or hits you in a particularly devastating way, it starts to change you—and that’s not a bad thing!
The problem is, most of us never get as far as the changing part, unless it’s in a negative way, such as becoming jaded, paranoid, or withdrawn. It’s a kind of surrender, a way of adapting to the pain after we’ve repeatedly failed to eliminate it. But there’s almost always another path available: allowing the pain to change you in a positive way.
Think about the human body. Every cell has a miniature power plant called the mitochondria. According to my good friend, Dr. Ben Johnson, the cell goes as the mitochondria goes. If the mitochondria is healthy, the cell will function correctly and never manifest a disease gene. If there’s something wrong with the mitochondria, the cell immediately gets sick and may manifest one. In fact, according to Dr. Ben, that’s the only way you can get a disease!
Every emotion you feel has power, some more than others. Regret can be crushing for people at the end of your life, but for a teenager, it’s usually pretty far down the list. Anger, hatred, and other high-powered feelings can do serious damage to your cells, health, and happiness if harbored over time. This is where pain can serve as a teacher and guide. Instead of fighting, running, or freezing, pray to God or make a request of your heart to use the power of that pain for something positive—to create more love in your heart, to teach you something, or as one ancient manuscript put it, to make you a little bit more perfect than you were before.
Dr. Paul Brand, MD, wrote about this in his book, Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants. He explains that the purpose of pain is exactly that: to keep you on the right path. In fact, once upon a time one of the greatest illnesses you could ever get was leprosy, which at its essence is simply an absence of pain. I’ve had more clients than I can count tell me that this one thing completely changed their lives. I hope it can do the same for some of you.
Have a blessed, wonderful day!