On Pain and Community

I think we often have an idyllic view of community. Worse, I think that we've set an implicit expectation that community needs to be..

Pain-free. Conflict-free. Uniform. Unwounded.

To which I say... bullshit.

As someone who has seen healing take place, be it emotional, physical or otherwise, I know that healing is possible. I've got memories, stories and scars to show for it.

And that, my friends, is the point.

We've all been wounded, scarred. We've all been offended. We've all had people treat us terribly, and we've done the same to others. We've missed out on the opportunity to "be excellent to one another!" as Bill and Ted so eloquently put it.

But we don't need to have gaping wounds, they can be healed. And even if they aren't healed, they can become sources of healing, liberation for others. Here's how healing can take place at each step of woundedness:

First, healing can take place at the first sign of injury, beginning with acknowledgement and awareness. "Ow, I'm in pain. I should do something." That more or less sums up the thoughts we often have. Often in more emotional pain, our fight/flight reflex kicks in to project our pain onto others, but this doesn't bring about healing, only more pain. No, to turn pain into healing, first we must own our pain. My pain is not someone else's pain. I know what I'm feeling. I can face it.

Next, healing happens in treatment. Upon acknowledgement comes diagnosis and treatment, wherein the symptom (generally) points to a deeper problem. Whether we need others in this process or not, this next step begins or cultivates the personal healing process, and may be a good time to invite others into your pain. Maybe you can't handle it all by yourself. Maybe someone has to hold on a bandage. This is when you can process your pain with God and others, and begin to take steps towards a more whole you. Sure, it's possible to skip diagnosis and avoid treatment, to remain in denial, but it will only end in self-destruction, assuming you even moved past stage one. This is also the step where we learn. We are in the journey of pain. We can come to terms with our past, see our scars not as memories to run from but as stories to tell. Not cheaply, maybe painfully, but tell nonetheless.

If the pain is still live, wounds still present, this can be a tool of liberating sympathy. I can see someone else going through a similar pain that I did, and give them space to pursue healing. Vent their hurts if needed. If they ask, I can even offer some perspective and diagnostic help--I've been there. If they don't want my advice, I can just have the first aid ready.

You don't have to be totally healed, delivered or set=free to have a valid (or IMPORTANT) testimony. Your story of journeying with pain can help liberate others. It requires that you own your pain, not deny or project. It requires that in taking it you take steps to treat causes, not symptoms. It requires transcending your own pain and incorporating it into your larger story. Then and only then will your wounds be a source of healing for others.

If we embrace an idea of community that is healing-oriented but doesn't allow the sharing of pain, we are lying to ourselves about the strength, value and integrity of our community. But if our community embraces people. Wounded, broken, growing, developing people. As they are. Well, we are well on our way not only to being a community of acceptance and love but of true healing as well.

Pain isn't the problem.

Pain is a part of our existence.

Accepted. Now what?

Now, we listen to our own pain.
Now, we learn from our own pain.
Now, we listen to and learn from the pain of others.
Now, we treat causes, not symptoms.
Now, we accept that healing can be a process or be in an instant.
Now, we embrace people, loving them as we love ourselves.

With love (and pain),

Benjamin FaderComment