Friday, April 5, 2013

Learning To Deal With Our Own Pain

It seems these days like we have opportunities at every turn to spill our guts. I find this particularly true of Facebook and Twitter, as these are sites that I have used, but there are a multitude of others. Facebook and Twitter can be a good way to spread important information in a split second, but they can also become places where we go to bleed freely and attempt to have our wounds licked.  It seems that some people  - and I have been guilty of this in the past - immediately hit social media when something bad or something good happens to them. Today I'm thinking more about the bad.

How many of us have taken to our computers when we're really lonely and we cast the Facebook net out there hoping that we'll catch someone's eye who will fill our loneliness? How many of us tweet madly hoping that others will be impressed by the agility of our thumbs and respond in some way?  This can come in lieu of  a lost relationship, a lost job, lost faith. More than often we would do better to keep our own secrets and learn to be held by the few close people around us - friends, family, therapists, rather than walk around bleeding.  While posting everything on the web for all to see, or by sharing your innermost pain with strangers, you may feel temporary relief, but eventually you will feel desperate.

The late Catholic writer Henri Nouwen wrote a piece called "Own Your Pain" in his personal journal The Inner Voice of Love:

"The main question is 'Do you own your pain?' As long as you do not own your pain - that is, integrate your pain into your way of being in the world - the danger exists that you will use the other to seek healing for yourself. When you speak to others about your pain without fully owning it, you expect something from them that they cannot give. As a result, you will feel frustrated , and those you wanted to help will feel confused, disappointed, or even further burdened.
But when you fully own your pain and do not expect those to whom you minister to alleviate it, you can speak about it in true freedom. Then sharing your struggle can become a service; then your openness about yourself can offer courage and hope to others.
For you to be able to share your struggle as a service, it is also essential to have people to whom you can go with your own needs. You will always need safe people to whom you can pour out your heart. You will always need people who do not need you but who can receive you and give you back to yourself. You will always need people who can help your own pain and claim your struggle."
I am being challenged today to 1) go inside to the place of pain and find healing in God instead of displaying my pain to the whole world, and 2) to be held by the certain few people in my life who will take me as I am.

Mark Andrew Nouwen