The Gift in Our Pain

Girl Sits In A Depression On The Floor Near The Wall

Sometimes, our pain is a beautiful thing.

There is a gift in our pain.

That might sound strange (or insensitive) for me to say, especially if you’re dealing with something really painful in your life right now.

What is the “gift” in going through a divorce, dealing with a bully boss, or struggling to make ends meet financially? That doesn’t even begin to mention the impossibility of finding a “gift” in developing a life-altering medical condition, having a child die, or being the victim of sexual assault.

To be very clear, I am in no way saying that those events are a gift. They’re not, and it would be insulting for anyone to say otherwise.

What I am saying is that after an intensely painful event, many people do uncover a special gift that they might have been unaware of before:

The awareness of how strong they truly are.

The Moment of Truth

You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.” -Bob Marley

I want you to think of something.

Think of the event in your life that is most responsible for making you into the person you are today. Let’s call it our “moment of truth.”

Not everyone can come up with something in response to this, but if you can, I’m willing to bet that pain played a role in it somehow.

For the past three years that The Positivity Solution has been in existence, I have heard from countless readers about the moments of truth that have shaped their lives. Here are only three of literally hundreds of stories:

  • A reader went to a well-known amusement park, and because she was very overweight, the park attendants told her (in front of everyone) that she was unable to ride any of the roller coasters until she lost about 50 lbs.
  • Another reader was bullied at work to the point where she contemplated suicide as the only escape from the daily torment she received.
  • Another reader had three of her ribs broken by her abusive, drunken husband while her two young children cowered in fear in the adjacent room.

Here’s the common thread that these stories all share:

In each instance, that event helped them tap into a strength that they didn’t know existed–and as a result, that new-found strength positively transformed their lives in ways that they didn’t believe was previously possible.

  • When faced with unbearable embarrassment and shame, Reader #1 found the strength to lose 75 lbs, reclaim her health, and her life.
  • When faced with the realization that she was seriously considering ending her life over her workplace troubles, Reader #2 found the strength to build a rock-solid case against her bully, and because of it, the bully ended up quitting (before he likely ended up getting fired.)
  • When faced with the reality that her two young kids could be in grave danger if she did nothing to stop the abuse, Reader #3 found the strength to leave in the middle of the night with her kids (and three broken ribs) once he passed out. Now, he’s deservedly rotting away in a prison cell.

There’s a reason why when people mention their moment of truth, it’s usually not the “epic vacation they took to Tahiti in 2003” or when they won $2,000 on a lottery scratch ticket.

Our moments of truth are usually born from pain.

That’s because pain exposes our strength. And it’s only our strength that has the power to positively change our lives.

The Sad, Painless Ones

This might sound a little harsh, but I struggle to connect with anyone who hasn’t experienced any meaningful challenges in their lives.

Since I live in Los Angeles, I personally know of quite a few of these people. Sadly, they’re usually the ones who habitually curse out the baristas at Starbucks when their coffee isn’t brewed to the perfect temperature. Because you know, that’s the stuff that really matters.

Even worse, I’ve found that the people who haven’t been touched by real life challenges are usually the ones who also lack empathy toward other people’s life challenges. Of course, that’s just my personal experience, but that’s what I’ve seen during my 41 laps around the sun.

More importantly though, I believe that people who have experienced pain are also more willing (and able) to help others who are suffering through similar painful situations.

Perfection does nothing for me, because it’s a made-up story with no purpose. It’s the very real scars that come from getting our asses kicked by our shared human experience that I want to see.

To me, that is true beauty.

Receiving the Gift

Just to be clear–I’m not a tough guy who loves pain. I’m actually the opposite–I hate it. 

I used to avoid pain, but I now know that doing so is like trying to outrun our own shadows. That doesn’t make any sense, because similar to our shadows, our pain is a part of us. 

It is far more important to spend our energy learning from our pain, instead of ignoring it or running from it.

Because if we choose to learn from our pain, we will find that special strength that can only come from the process of working through it.

And that is a gift that is worth the effort to receive it.

Your Turn

Do you believe in the idea that there can be a gift in your pain? Have you experienced a challenging situation and have you become stronger because of it? Jump into the comments below and make your voice heard!

Shola

Shola

Founder of The Positivity Solution
Author, keynote speaker, and kindness extremist who is committed to changing the world by helping as many people as possible to live and work with more positivity.
Shola
Shola
Shola

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Comments

  1. Hiteshkumar says:

    No pain no gain,
    Pain makes us more strong eventually…,so accept it

  2. Shola, I have had trouble with this topic before. I have said, there are few survivors of what my brothers & I went through. And even though we did survive, and have productive lives, we are deeply scarred & frequently feel troubled, in our 50s! Yet I know what you’re saying is correct, and essential. We must always see the gift in the pain, that together we formed a tight bond, we found strength, resourcefulness, and hope. We planned and expected to live, and here we are. Now, we are unstoppable, we are strong, we have empathy & help others, and we appreciate & love life. Each of us has our dark moments, and this thought today is essential, for us to appreciate the present, and accept the past.

    • Donna, interestingly enough when I was writing this blog post, I was thinking a lot about you and what you’ve gone through. I wondered (and sincerely hoped) that the ideas in this blog post would honor you and the challenges that you have overcome. As always, I am in awe of your strength and resilience, and you continue to be a role-model for all of us to aspire to 🙂

  3. I love this post! It’s difficult to see the light in the middle of the clouds of pain, but its there! Pain makes us stand up and walk away from horrible situations. I remember that post you wrote Shola, “The Pain of Never again”. Whenever I feel like I screwed up big time, I remember that post and say to myself “Never again” and start doing things to get up and avoid hitting that horrible place again.

    The best lessons are the most painful. You are so right when you mention that people who have suffered the most are usually the most emphatic. They know what it feels like to be in that well of pain, I find these people the most interesting to talk to. Makes me realize that my current pain is just nothing compared to what they have been through, and the way they stood up and kept on going truly inspires me.

    Thank you for reminding us about the gift of becoming strong. Happy week Shola! 🙂

    • Sofia, you are so right–unfortunately, some of the best lessons in life are often the most painful. That’s exactly where the Pain of Never Again came from. One of the reasons why I find this community of people so interesting is because we’ve all been through pain, and I believe that is what connects us–the ability/willingness to be positive in spite of our pain. Seriously, what could be more interesting than that? Stay strong, my friend!

  4. Kathleen Carey says:

    Happy Monday Shola,

    I couldn’t agree more. As much as I would like to believe empathy is an inherent human behavior, (like you I live in Los Angeles) I continuously witness the opposite. Pain is not something we seek but, it is there all too often. What really breaks my heart is comments like Donna’s above – I am in awe of people who have survived and thrive despite horrendous experiences. Although my pain is in no way comparable, I continue to feel that had I not gone through the hurt, I would not be conscious of my strength and ability to rebound.

    Again, another great topic to encourage self reflection!

    Have a great week,
    Kat

    • I hear you, Kat–I also would like to believe that empathy is a common human trait, but sadly it isn’t. Just like you, I’m in awe of incredibly strong people like Donna, because it’s people like her who light the way for the rest of us to show the unbreakable power of the human spirit. We are all so much stronger than we give ourselves credit for, and usually it is our pain that reminds us of that fact. Thanks for reading!

  5. I’m in that situation where I think of quitting my job because of bullying at work. I was accused on many occasions without proof. When I demand they provide me with proof, they threaten me with dismissal. The problem is that these bosses gang up on me. So now I can’t talk or trust people at work. I’m always alone, please help me on that.

    • Grace,

      I am working with a manager on just this topic, she is being seen as a bully but does not share this view, is hurt and confused by it. My thoughts;
      1. Perception lies with each of us, not all of us collectively or only one of us. See your actions from the other person’s perspective. What you see as a correction or feedback may be seen as bullying from the recipients perspective. Be able to accept that at face value.
      2. To help; be clear, be direct, be open to and solicit feedback. Since your manager(s) are engaged, solicit their help in how and when you message to people, especially those that see previous actions as bullying.
      3. Actively solicit feedback. Don’t wait for an event, especially if these are members of your team. Setup a sensing session to listen, your HR folks may be able to help. Have a thick skin, take it in, and then discuss and follow up on what actions should change.
      4. Demanding and bullying can be a thin line for some people. Your demanding if what ever the issue is continues as an ongoing (constructive – two way) conversation and drives changes over time as a result. If there is no follow up, no seeking to improve, no further communication, or communication is one way, the engagement may have been seen as over that line.
      5. Any decent manager will respond positively if you approach the problem head on. Ask for help, respond to feedback. It’s not about guilty or not – being defensive is the worst posture you can take. It’s about (everyone) being a better manager or c0-worker.

      My 2 cents. Good luck. Kevin

  6. Sharon Lippert says:

    Pain hurts so much but it’s just part of our lives. We try to protect our children so they hopefully never have to feel it but then without pain and some sadness we can never understand true happiness. Crazy things happen in life… I’m still glad I’m me.

    • Very true, Sharon–without sadness and pain, then there really can’t be any joy. And if so, it would be very hard to truly appreciate that joy.

  7. Rachael says:

    I like who I am today. There’s always room for improvement but I’m happy with my progress. I got here by NOT liking myself, sometimes hating myself. That’s what the pain I have gone through has done for me. Also it has given me the strength to face future pain.

    • Right on! I’m very glad that you’re at a place of liking yourself, Rachael. Like you, I’ve been there too, and it’s not a pretty place to be. And just like you, being in that place for extended period of time helped me to find the strength to climb out of that hole and rebuild a healthier self-image for myself. Congrats to you!

  8. Hi my friend. Another great topic. I was three when my mother married my step father soon after that was when the mental and physical abuse began. Beatings with belts soon turned into beatings with sticks(switches) and bull whips. As I got older it was plastic pipe that cut me on the head and caused a blood bath. Then pvc pipe and 2 x4 Then fists to the face. The worst was when he beat me so bad that I had marks on the
    Back of my legs and he wouldn’t let me
    Get my physical for football until they went away. I prayed they would heal in time so I could
    Play football. When his fists punched me in my face it broke my heart into a million pieces. I tried so hard to make him love me. I was terrified of him everyday when he came
    Home from work I would go to my room or for a walk so that he wouldn’t see me and hopefully he wouldn’t hurt me. The last straw was when he kicked me out of the house. I was in college man and I needed help to finish and get my degree. He kicked me out anyways. I swore that day that I would leave and never come back again. That was 27 years ago and I have kept my promise. I will admit that I tried to just forget about it and act like it never happened.but that pain did make me a better person since then I have made several of my dreams come true. And I definitely have been a way better father to my kid. Thank you for reminding me.

    • Wow Jon, that is absolutely horrific. I honor you for having the courage to share that with me. A lot of people who lack the mental/emotional strength that you clearly have, would transfer the pain that your stepfather inflicted on you, onto your child when you became a father. I deeply honor you for staying true to your values and for being the man that your stepfather was incapable of becoming. As I said to Donna above, I am in awe of your strength and resilience.

  9. Michelle says:

    To be able to share your pain..is the gift, from that moment on we can heal together. The pain no longer is in control.

  10. Hi Shola
    You know today has been “one of those days” you know, the ones when your down but you don’t know why you’re down. Well today has been one of those days, and then pop up comes this post, which is exactly what I needed let go of the negative and the positive comes back. Thank you for reminding us all of that xox

    • Tessa, that’s what I’m here for! I’m so glad to hear that this post made a meaningful difference for you, and I’ll happily deliver positive reminders for you for as long as you’ll have me in your inbox! 🙂

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