What we lose when we avoid pain


In his interview with Conan O'Brien, seen above, Louis C.K. gets it.  If you've heard his comedy before you realize he's gone through the hell of divorce, failure, and religion for a lot of years. If you've not heard his comedy, hold onto something. His comedic rant against cell phones tapped into a truth our culture loves to avoid. 

'I look around and pretty much 100% of people driving are texting.  And their killing --everybody's murdering each other with their cars.  But people are willing to risk taking a life and ruining their own, because they don't want to be alone for a second.'

He's spot-on. This sense of deep loneliness, like a burr in our soul, is what we avoid like a plague. Smart phones have made this easier and instantaneously relieved. Consider for a minute the thousand different ways we escape pain: we plug away at jobs for 50+ hours a week while remaining disconnected from our kids and spouses, pornography is still a multi-billion dollar industry, teenage kids (and their parents alike) are numbed by a cocktail of mood altering drugs, our religions teach us to think more than feel, our country is on a constant move towards further obesity as we eat our feelings away, and on and on. So many of us live an isolated and insulated life.

Louis goes on to speak about the worst part of constantly distracting ourselves from pain.

'You never feel completely sad or completely happy.  You just feel kind of satisfied with your product.' 

I think this interview struck such a chord with me because of an experience, similar to the one Louis mentions, which I had earlier this week.  One morning I woke up with an acutely nagging sense that it's not okay, that life is severely flawed. The amount of pain shared by clients I've grown to love, the failures of mentors, questions unanswerable, and the mess I've made in my past decade of marriage laid on me thick. My first instinct was to escape this - numb it. By God's grace I didn't, and instead I sat in it, and I wept. The lonely pain I felt pushed me to call a fatherly friend whom I trust and love. Had I played on my phone, worked on something, or done one of a thousand distractions, I would have missed out on such a gift. My pain gave me an opportunity to love and be loved. My sadness opened me up to a clear awareness of my needs, and readied my heart to receive care from a friend.

My challenge is this: don't waste your pain. Louis puts it pointedly when he says that sadness is a gift. Sit it in, receive it. When we allow ourselves to feel deeply, we allow ourselves to drink deeply from life. 

If you need a song to jumpstart your heart, check out our community playlist on Spotify.