Pain… the FUEL of Rewards

When we experience what may seem to be never-ending difficulty, the emotions we experience – like sorrow, heartache and anguish – can be a natural consequence. It’s natural for those emotions to happen. The purpose of sorrow, heartache, anguish, suffering – or whatever you want to call it – is NOT to make you feel worse – OR to help you feel better. These are just emotions. That’s the way it is.

But in my humble opinion… sometimes people allow these emotions to cause more damage than necessary. Think about it? If you try to control your painful feelings by either a) hanging on to them, or b) denying they are real, you will typically only have more pain. But if you accept your situation and let those emotions somehow motivate you, they can put you in touch with the deeper realities of life and help you attach GREAT MEANING to the most difficult situations.

Did you get that? The reward I just mentioned?

But here is what I see all too often. I hear people say, why me? Why now? What have I done to deserve this? And even in some more dire and difficult situations I’ve heard people say, “How could a loving God allow this to happen?” Especially when difficulties happen to a child or the more innocent of the world. And I get it. Imagine if you lost a newborn child only weeks after they were born? Like my good buddy, Tony. Or imagine your 14 year-old son was killed in a car accident where one of your other children was driving? As happened to my friend, Jason. And just recently, my good friend Wendy stated it well when she said, Now typically I don’t like to use the word suffer, but for those that face these things you know that at times no matter what you do, say, or think… you suffer.”

Here’s what CAN happen in those times that may prolong the pain and suffering:

Bad Body Language, or the way we hold our bodies. Bad Focus, or what we’re thinking about. And Bad Talk, or what we’re saying to ourselves. Let’s look at each of these briefly.

First, there’s Bad Body Language. So, whether you know it or not, how you hold your body has a direct influence on how you feel. Try this: Lower your head, slump your body, hang your arms down to your sides, breath a bit more shallow than normal, put a frown on your face and now say, “I’m excited.” If you’ll do this you’ll notice you probably didn’t say it with “too excited” of a voice. And if you’ll keep your body in that position for an extended period of time, you’ll probably have a tough time staying happy.

Now do the opposite, stand up straight, raise your head, smile, pull your shoulders back, breathe deeply and fully and now say, “I’m very unhappy.” It’s hard isn’t it? But here’s what happens to most of us. We are completely unaware of our bodies when we are feeling bad. And our bodies are in a state that is HELPING us stay in a state of unhappiness.

Here’s what we need to try and do when times get hard. We USE our bodies to CHANGE the way we feel. The harder it gets, the taller we stand. The tougher it seems, the harder we try to breathe deeply, smile, raise our heads, pull back our shoulders and move forward with confidence and faith.

Here’s what you can do too. Starting right now. The next time you FEEL bad or stressed or sad, CHANGE your body. Ask yourself, how would I be standing IF I were happy – then do THAT. Then, how would my face look IF I were happy – then do that. Then, how would I be breathing if I were happy – then do THAT. You’ll be surprised at what it can do for your demeanor if you simply CHANGE your body in to a “happy” body.

Next, there’s Bad Focus… and what we DECIDE to focus on: I’ve mentioned this before – in an entire article here:  – but I truly believe that when we FOCUS on the difficulties, it gives them more life and deepens our sadness. Don’t get me wrong, there IS a time for grief, and we SHOULD take a bit of time to FEEL those feelings. They deserve to be felt. But when we focus consistently on something or someone that we have lost – then we put other people and things at risk. When we focus on our difficulties too much, there’s a good chance we may start to hurt others and ourselves because we become incapable of helping ourselves and others. THIS is the commonly unseen CONSEQUENCE of this activity.

We must value the lives of others and ourselves more than our own suffering.

Now, I’ve never lost a child, but I think Jason (my buddy who lost his 14 year-old son in a car accident) said it best when he said, “In my relatively brief life experience I have found when we focus on the negative aspects of a situation or people, and worse yet, give them voice, we will have negative experiences = misery and unhappiness… Conversely, when we pour on some hope, faith and charity and LOOK for the positive, we WILL have positive experiences even in our greatest trials and most difficult relationships = happiness… I choose to be happy.”

Finally, there’s Bad Talk. Or the way we TALK to ourselves. I’ve also blogged about this extensively here: so I won’t go in to too much detail, but I will say this. When things DON’T go right, we DON’T want to repeat certain language patterns over and over. When we are hurt or in pain we tend to generalize and speak in absolutes – “I NEVER, or I ALWAYS FEEL.” But THAT is lying to yourself. It’s NOT always.

A better way to talk to yourself is to ask yourself, “What can I do, what am I to learn, who can I ask for help” or the best question to ask yourself – in my humble opinion, “Who Can I Serve?” This will lead you to action. These questions are fuel that can drive you to the rewards that are available when we suffer.

You see, I believe we can’t have strength without pain. The more the pain the stronger you become. Our job is to USE that strength to help US and others. Here’s are some questions I find I ask myself frequently when faced with hard stuff.

“Is my reaction to this difficulty or trial PRODUCTIVE for me and others? Will my reaction lead to my and others happiness? Is my reaction to this event helpful? OR, will my reaction to an event lead me to misery and destruction and hurt others along the way?”

And it doesn’t even have to be a major event. Like a while back, when before I even left for work, I was greeted with bad news via a text that indicated there was a BIG PROBLEM waiting for me when I got to work that was unnecessarily caused by a knuckled co-worker. As I hopped in the shower I was furious at her stupidity and found myself stewing about how crappy she was and how she was always causing unnecessary problems. Then I asked myself, “Is this productive? Will this help me and others be happy?”

That’s when I immediately DECIDED that how I was talking to myself was wrong and unproductive and frustrating me. So I changed the way I talked to myself and instead asked, “What can I do, what am I to learn, who can I ask for help” and even “Who can I serve?” Needless to say, when I got to work, I was happy, because I had “thought through” several options and the possible results and was able to get to work immediately handling the problem and solving it quickly.

This stuff works. You CAN turn difficulties in to fuel.

Like Wendy. Remember her? She’s the friend that said, Now typically I don’t like to use the word suffer, but for those that face these things you know that at times no matter what you do, say, or think… you suffer.”

Remember that? Well, she turned her suffering in to fuel and went on to say, Now I have taken control! I may not have all the answers but I do know if I don’t control it then it I lose out on so many things! I lose out on loving my babies, helping others, enjoying the things I love and most importantly using my trials as testimonies to those who need it most! With love and support from others I am able to step out and step up to make a difference!”

WOW! I love it.

Now for those of you like Tony (who lost his newborn) and Jason (who lost his 14 year-old, son) I would quickly caution:

At the hardest times, when REAL serious trials come your way – like death, or serious sickness, or anything like that, NEVER ask yourself, “How could God allow this to happen?” Or say, “A loving God would not do this.” Blaming God is never a good idea. I believe THAT is one of the best ways the adversary has to pull you away from your right to rely on divinity and drag you in to depression.

If you have spiritual beliefs, the time to question them is NOT when it’s difficult. THAT is the time to grab HOLD of your beliefs and have them be your anchor. If you question them you will be COMPLETELY lost. There can be no exceptions for faith. You can’t JUST believe it when it’s convenient – you MUST believe especially it when it’s inconvenient.

Listen, I know life can be hard. But I also know that we are capable. Capable of handling WHATEVER comes our way. Capable of learning and growing and THRIVING as we serve ourselves and others.

So, get to “THRIVING” – even as you experience trials.

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