Original Posting At http://mantuan.blogspot.com/2020/01/denied-pain-redux.html
“Courage is forged in pain, but not in all pain. Pain that is denied or ignored becomes fear or hate.”
Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness
I think many of us know the expression, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”
As Brené Brown offers in Braving the Wilderness, that expression is sometimes, but not always,true. Courage can be forged, but fear or hate might be as well.
Too often those in pain try to talk to someone, you, me or another friend, about their pain. On our best days, we listen. On our worst, we tell them to be tough and soldier on. I have, too often, witnessed this danced out with exactly this be tough and soldier on choreography when asked to deal with depression. Sadly, I have led this dance myself more than once.
A person has a broken ankle and we stop, cast them, operate if necessary and shower them with special care. A person has a broken heart stemming from life’s pains, and we often, too often in my opinion, tell them to suck it up and drive on.
On forced road marches in the Army, I often heard non-commissioned officers telling soldiers to “take two salt tablets, put your mind in neutral, and drive on.” It worked. Often in fact. Not always. When I comment that we need to be prepared to listen for the pain, it is the deeper pain that is being denied, or ignored. That is the type of pain that leads to anger and/or fear.
A powerful, insightful, book I read several years ago was Hillbilly Elegy. The author deals well with the deep pain of living in a culture where that pain is denied or ignored. To re-quote Brown: “Pain that is denied or ignored becomes fear or hate.”
I think there are movements in this country right now feeding from the trough of denied or ignored pain. These movements are across our political landscape, and not isolated to any one group.
How people are often moved to action is through a careful, intentional dose of hatred that is used so stoke the ovens of fear.
What we have too often is a single coin, with two sides: one side – fear, the other – hatred. Fear and hatred are two sides of the same coin, minted by those who use that coin to fund and fuel dissension and separation.
We live longer, have less poverty, are better educated, and are generally healthier than at any time in human history. But still we live so often in fear. Communities lock down because of a shooting and helicopters fly over our heads shaking us out of a world of confidence into a world beset with basic human fear, and we ask do I face this and rise, or do I flee, and if I do flee, where do I go that is truly safe?
So often FEAR is Forgetting Everything is All Right and that is a basic element of the human condition. I was once told, there are 365 times we are told to Fear Not in the Bible.
In Romans 5: 3-5 we are told “we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Each of us has a role in the steps here from suffering to hope. Moving from suffering to hope is not a personal, singular journey. Each of us are potential messengers of the Gospel on this journey.
Our task, our sacred call, is to listen deeply for the pain in others (or ourselves) and be agents that cause that pain to not be denied or ignored. Listening to others is important. Allowing yourself to be supported by others serves to help release that pain.
Sometimes we minister by quietly sitting, quietly listening.
Sometimes we minister by moving from sitting and listening to rising so that we are instruments of change in a world that might too often be guilty of the charge of not listening for the pain.
Sometimes, two salt tablets and putting our minds in neutral is not the Christ-like response. You figure that out by listening, and being open to not believing everything you think.
Sometimes what doesn’t kill you, makes you meaner or more fearful. Learn to recognize that in yourself. Be alert to seeing it in others.
Everyone of those sometimes contains a suggested Christ-like response: be a friend to those to whom love is a stranger.