Pain has a voice
As I alluded to in an earlier
writing, pain has a voice. It can be difficult to distinguish the voice of pain
from the voice of the person who is speaking but pain often causes people to
say things that they normally would not say if not for the presence of the
pain. This is true of physical pain and emotional pain. You may have heard the
phrase- hurt people hurt people, meaning that someone who has been hurt in the
past often hurts others. This can certainly be true.
Near the end of her time on
earth, my mother lived with my family. She had lived in the small town in which
I grew up and since it was an hour and a half away from where I lived then, her
moving in with me was the only option. It was a small house to begin with, and
the only place for my mom to be was in the living room. There simply wasn’t
anywhere else. This required adjustments on everyone’s part, as I had three
kids under 7 at the time. Mom was fortunate to have a great group of friends
who came up to visit her often. One day while her friend was there, I had gone
upstairs for something. As the house was small, I could hear them talking while
I was upstairs. I heard my mom tell her friend that I didn’t want her to be
there, and I didn’t want to take care of her. The bitterness in her voice stopped
me in my tracks. Now my mom always had a sharp tongue but this felt different. As
an only child, I had made a lot of sacrifices for her in the past year and a
half and it never seemed like enough. For her to be angry at me really cut.
When I came downstairs, Betty
knew I had obviously heard my mom and told me later that it was the cancer
talking, not my mom. At that time though, it was impossible for me to
distinguish the voice of cancer from the voice of my mom.
Contrary to the old rhyme of sticks
and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me, words can indeed
hurt us. If fact, words can cripple and break us just as much as any stone ever
could. It’s a bible principle that words have power. God didn’t mix up some
clay to form the earth, he spoke it into existence. The words of God have
creative power. The very beginning of the story of mankind started with words.
(See the book of Genesis)
The words of the reckless
pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Prov. 12:18
The tongue has the power
of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Prov. 18:21
I doubt very much that my mom
intended for me to hear her words or that they were intended to hurt me, but
yet they did. That’s because by its very nature, pain hurts. Please hear this.
Pain is exactly that- painful. And when pain speaks, it’s natural that its
voice would bring hurt as well. My mom has been gone a long time now and I got
over the hurt of her words. But the lessons I learned during that time still serve
It’s fairly easy to see that
someone is sick or in physical pain. Because we can see this and understand how
they may feel, it may be easier for us to give some mercy and take their
difficult words with a grain of salt. This gets harder to do if it’s someone
very close to you and even harder if it’s an extended situation. If you are on
the receiving end of the voice of pain for a prolonged period, you must care
for yourself during this time. More on this momentarily.
It can be even more difficult to
recognize the voice of pain when it is coming from someone who is physically
fine but experiencing emotional pain. Especially if that person is us.
Our own pain has a voice and it
speaks to us. Maybe I am the only clumsy one here but have you ever ran into
something and it really hurt? Unfortunately, this seems to happen to me a lot.
My first response it usually to call the desk a stupid piece of crap. Or, I say
something to myself, like you seriously just ran into that again? What is wrong
with you? Why don’t you pay more attention? Think about it. Next time you get
hurt, pay attention to your first response. For some people, there is a
constant stream of negative words that they say to themselves. Pain blames. It
lashes out. It accuses. Pain is angry. Our own pain can yell at us pretty
loudly and blame us.
I would be guessing that for most
of us, thinking of pain in this way is new. But realizing this can help us
separate the voice of pain and learn to give ourselves some grace. This may
sound like a strange thing to say but, I encourage you to think about your
thoughts. If there is old emotional pain that has been with you for a long
time, chances are that you may not even recognize its voice.
For example, if you have suffered
a serious rejection, the pain from rejection certainly has a voice. When you
find yourself in a situation where it seems remotely like a rejection, (why
wasn’t I invited to the get together) pain will tell you it’s because you
aren’t wanted. You aren’t interesting enough, you have nothing that anyone else
wants. And on and on. Over and over, situation after situation.
Whether our own pain is speaking
to us or its voice is coming through another, we don’t have to accept the
hurtful words of pain. Of course we may hear the words but we don’t have to
allow them to penetrate our heart and accept them as truth. Again, this may be
a new thought to some and may feel strange at first, but we can, and should
“talk back”. If we are experiencing hurtful words coming through another person
and we recognize that pain is behind the words, we can “stop” them before they
pierce our heart. If we view painful words as Proverbs describes them, like
swords that pierce, we can also picture our protection, which is truth, as a type
of armor. Again, we will certainly hear the hurtful voice of pain but we talk
back to it and say no, that’s not truth.
If you know me well, you know
that one of my favorite shows is Law and Order. One thing that I always notice
is how victims and families get angry at the police who are trying to assist
them. Screaming in their faces, yelling, cussing them out. I mean come on!
These are the people who are actually helping you and you go off on them? I
cannot imagine myself in the position of the police who stand there calmly and
let them yell. I want to scream back that I am on their side! Until I remember
the voice of pain. The police understand this and that understanding is what
enables them to calmly face the barrage of words. They don’t take it personally
and recognize it for what it is.
In the situation with my mother,
when I overheard her talking to her friend, instead of allowing her words to
pierce my heart, I could have said to myself, no that’s not truth. Her illness
is causing her to lash out but her words are not truth. I am doing the best I
can and I will not allow her words to bring hurt and division. I may have even
told my mom that I did want her to be there, and I know it was difficult for
her. Would her words still have stung? Most likely. But they would not have
taken root in my heart.
As awkward as it may feel at
first, sometimes we have to talk back to painful words. Remember, it is a
Biblical principle that the power of life and death is in the tongue. If pain
is spewing hateful words at you, speak life back. I’m not necessarily saying
that you speak back to the person, although sometimes you may need to. I’m
saying that we can refuse to accept hurtful words. Instead of embracing hurtful
words, we resist them. We say to ourselves, no, I don’t agree with this, I
don’t believe this, I won’t accept this as truth. Make sense?
In this world the voice of pain
will always be present but it doesn’t have to cripple or destroy us. My prayer
is that you will begin to recognize the voice of pain and not let it hinder