Toward the end of The Princess Bride, there is a scene where Wesley tells Prince Humperdinck, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
This may seem on the surface to be a very jaded outlook on life, but in reality Wesley’s perspective is neither fatalistic nor overstated.
To live is to feel pain.
To not feel pain is to not be fully alive. Physically, it may be evidence of paralysis. Emotionally, it could stem from the lack of nurture. Spiritually, it likely is the result of fear creeping in to exploit our deepest pain driving us to self isolate as a way to guard our heart from even deeper wounds. But, in each case, in order to not feel something must die; flesh, innocence, or hope. It seems pain is not meant to be a harbinger of death, but rather an evidence of life.
I recently heard somewhere that humans are six times more likely to avoid pain that they are to seek pleasure. Pain avoidance, however, only compounds the problem. No matter its destination, avoidance leads to nowhere good; addiction, loneliness, prejudice, narcissism, fits of rage, anxiety, fear, depression, and the list goes on.
Question: what does it mean to have a healthy view of pain?
Answer: To live life fully.
While in the midst of pain we seldom find ourselves celebrating it. However, it is often said of painful situations, “I would not have chosen to go through this, but looking back I see I am better for it.” It is this understanding that best helps us live life in all its fullness; we reprioritize, change directions, and adjust perspectives.
The familiar saying goes, “No pain no gain.” This is altogether true, but only when striving to embrace life in all its fullness. Conversely it is anything but true when we don’t.
Pain, it seems, has two dance partners: infection and inoculation. One leads to loss, the other leads to life.
Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Pain is not optional, but who we allow to dance with our pain is.