“Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” – The Princess Bride.
A couple days ago my 3 year old daughter crawled underneath me then sprung up without warning, head-butting me in the jaw hard. Part of my tongue was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was nearly pierced through by one sharp pointy tooth in the process.
As blood gushed out of my mouth my daughter ran over to my husband, asking him to kiss her forehead to make her boo-boo feel better. He kissed her forehead and tried to explain to her the pain she had just inflicted on me and why she needed to be more careful when she plays. She said “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to do that” before running off to play with something in the living room, the lecture clearly not sticking.
Shortly after, she saw me holding an icepack to my mouth and came over to investigate. She asked why I had the ice pack, the incident obviously already forgotten. I reminded her that she hurt my tongue and she apologized twice. I knew she was waiting for me to forgive her and tell her it was okay. My tongue was throbbing and I was still upset but I swallowed my anger and forgave her. I told her it was okay even though it really wasn’t. She asked to see the boo-boo so I showed her the gash on my now swollen tongue. She looked at it briefly then stuck out her own tongue and went back to her playing.
Her lack of concern or real remorse was a little jarring but probably typical for a 3 year old. It got me thinking about empathy and whether or not we can ever truly empathize with someone’s suffering until we have gone through the same thing ourselves. My daughter has thankfully never felt a similar acute physical pain so she has no concept of a level of suffering that can’t be cured with a gentle kiss and soothing words. I thought that incident would be the most painful I’d have to endure this week but it wasn’t.
Two days ago my Uncle lost his battle with cancer. I know that any pain and sadness I feel about his passing is shallow compared to the devastation that his wife and my father must be feeling right now. Their pain is raw and consuming and I feel terribly useless and inadequate at providing any meaningful consolation.
The older I get the more true the “Life is Pain” statement becomes. Behind all of our smiling facebook feeds and squeaky clean Pinterest homes everyone is harboring some type of terrible pain – mental and physical problems, rocky relationships, divorce, miscarriages, infertility, insecurity, loss, death. Everyone is struggling with a beast not everyone can see – a beast we may not want other people to see. Most people don’t know how to deal with other people’s pain. It makes us uncomfortable. It makes us feel inadequate. It makes everyone’s heart ache.
But that same pain also makes us grow, and reminds us that we’re still alive.
Photo credit: linux87 / 123RF Stock Photography