Pain is an inevitable part of life. While some would say that's a pessimistic viewpoint, I would argue it is simply realistic. This is something that is common to all of us.
My mom has grown accustomed to saying, "Lyss, you need to learn how to let it hurt." She's had to "remind" me of this most of my life. See, I do this thing where I pretend that painful things in life don't hurt me. That when a good friend walks out of my life, it doesn't impact me. That when I feel that I've disappointed someone, it doesn't shatter my world for a moment. That when life gets messy, I make bad decisions, lose people - the list goes on - it's easy for me just keep going like I'm not carrying the hurt with me.
Maybe you're like me; maybe you're the exact opposite. What differs from person to person is how we deal with this inevitable pain. Society has managed to perpetuate the myth that strength is dismissing the pain; never allowing yourself to feel the hurt, or admit it anyway, and moving on as though you've been unaffected.
But that's exactly what this belief is: a myth. Ignoring pain does not make it go away, it invites it to grow deeper. Avoiding dealing with the pain does not prohibit the growth of this pain within us, it prohibits healing. Refusing to admit to or allow yourself to feel pain is not strength, it is cowardice.
How does this make sense? Well, on one side you have this response to pain: "This is uncomfortable, but I am dealing with it anyway because it will produce the better long-term result."
And on the other side, you have this response: "I am scared, so I am not dealing with this regardless of the long-term impact it may have."
Which one sounds like strength and which one sounds like running away?
Strength is found in letting yourself hurt; admitting to the hurt, allowing yourself to feel it and taking the necessary steps, though they do hurt like hell, to overcome it; to find peace in the midst of the healing process. The truth that nobody likes to believe is that turning yourself off to the pain is representative of fear.
What fear? The fear of having to feel the hurt; the fear of dealing with what is causing the pain; the pain of having to face it all. There is no strength in that. You may be really good at making it look like strength, but unfortunately coming across tough does not equate to being strong. Instead of strength, you know what you end up with by dealing (or, really, not dealing) with hurt this way? Three less than lovely things:
Weakness; because the fear that causes you to avoid dealing with it silently takes you out at the knees.
Insecurity; because you end up stripped of your confidence in the process of trying to hide it all so nobody sees.
Loneliness; because the walls you build up to accomplish all of this are so high you can't even see outside them anymore, let alone let anyone in.
And make no mistake about it, this applies to men and women the same. Men have the short end of the stick here, actually, because the world insists that if they show the slightest bit of emotion they're not real men. From where I'm sitting as a woman, one of the most attractive things about a man is his vulnerability. Why? Because vulnerability is representative of strength. How? Because vulnerability says "I am afraid, but it will not define me and I will not let it stop me."
Paul explains it better in his letter to the Corinthians, though:
Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. [II Corinthians 12:10]
Life hurts. Because amidst all the good, there are unlovely things wrapped up in it. But amidst the hurt, the hurt you sometimes feel right down the core of who you are, there is strength waiting to surface.
Right now, my life hurts. There's a lot of pain, coming from more than one angle. This is where I would normally turn off and move on. But I am letting myself feel the pain. I'm letting the tears fall; I'm talking about it; I'm letting myself remember what I wish I would forget. I'm giving myself time to feel the hurt so I can find the strength.
And this strength, through nothing but God, is enough to overcome it all.
So my friends, let it hurt; because only after the hurt do you find healing.