Red Flag

When my wife and I lived in Japan we were expecting our second child. But we had a hard time finding a hospital that offered anesthesia during labor.  Eventually, though, we found a place but the anesthesia doses were kept to the absolute minimum.  It was as if Japanese doctors felt that experiencing some pain was necessary or even good for you.

The word I remember hearing most often from medical staff in Japan during that time was “Gambarimasu.” It means to persevere; to persist; to keep at it; to do one’s best.”

Meanwhile, back home, the Center for Disease  Control (CDC) says on their website,

“Since 1999, the amount of prescription painkillers prescribed and sold in the U.S. has nearly quadrupled, yet there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report.”

Something is not right here. It seems like we’re becoming too soft, right?

Our culture does everything possible to avoid any pain, discomfort, or even inconvenience. Recently, for example, while watching a movie with my wife,  EVERY commercial break advertised some prescription drug promising pain relief from something.

We were shocked!

These drug companies have pills for stuff I didn’t even know existed or was a problem!

Don’t get it twisted.

This isn’t a rant against prescription drugs or its industry (but it kind of is).  And I’m not saying prescription drugs should not exist or be taken.  That’s a personal choice. 

The issue for me is that at some point we began under valuing the importance of pain and discomfort in our lives.

That’s when we became too soft!

According to the dictionary,  pain is defined as “ physical suffering or distress, as due to injury or illness.”  Pain isn’t necessarily the cause of the problem; it’s a symptom of something  causing the pain, right? Pain is like a warning flag at the beach letting you know that the current is too strong for swimming. 

The flag isn’t the problem.

Thanks to clever marketing and a culture of convenience, we’ve allowed ourselves to become addicted to the idea of pain-free comfortable living. But without pain we can’t understand the cause of the problem, right?  Drugs are just one type of distraction from a long list. 

I love what Kary Oberbrunner said in his book “The Deeper Path” about this topic, which he describes as “numbing our pain.”  He said,

“By choosing our pain, we can choose to step toward our potential and our ultimate healing becoming fully alive. Think about it.  The alternative to being fully alive isn’t that attractive. It’s numbness. Numb to emotion. Numb to feeling. Numb to life.”

I’m not arguing that we should become pain freaks. But what if we try understanding the cause of our emotional pain instead of running from it?  I’ve learned through my life, that if we learn to embrace our struggles, we can turn our pain into our strength. But it all starts with personal awareness of what’s causing the pain.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

eight − seven =