Pain is a constant in human existence. This regularity necessitates response, which in time becomes habitual. We develop a particular posture toward pain and a way of handling life when it hurts. These mechanisms for coping, making meaning and supporting others have great potential for help or harm.
Responses that work to ignore, deny, minimize and numb pain are at best unhelpful. More likely than not, approaches with these hidden or explicit intentions end up compounding one’s pain.
Pain must be looked directly in the face. It must be experienced and it must be resisted. In other words, it must be engaged with compassion. Compassion is that posture that refuses to back down from pain.
Compassion does not run, it does not deny or minimize, it does not numb. Compassion is courage in the face of pain, it is a passionate unwillingness to accept suffering as a static reality. Walter Brueggemann says it best.
“Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt is to be taken seriously, that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness.”
Compassion is rebellion. It refuses to lay down to pain. It wades right into the heart of suffering and wages war. It seeks to absorb and shoulder the pain of another. It inserts kindness, love and patience into the darkest of places.
Pain will not be rendered impotent until the return of the King. Yet, he has not left us without weapons for the battle, the greatest of which is compassion.