Fall In Love With Your Pain
All too often, we talk amongst ourselves about who has it worse. Is the poor man with a loving family worse off than the rich man with nobody? Is the church pastor who neglects his children less moral than the atheist who loves his? Do millennials with the internet in their hand actually have worse opportunities to get educated than their boomer parents? We could debate all of these, plenty I'm sure. But what if 'who has it worse?' is the wrong question all together?
Being a human being, whether black, white, gay, straight, rich, poor, skinny, fat, tan, pale, extroverted, introverted, Democrat, or Republican comes with themes. Slap all the adjectives on a person you want. You can't take away from anybody that at our core, we are searching for an explanation for our existence. We are searching for a reason. Why are we here? Why do we die? Why do people break our hearts? Why do we break our own hearts? Why anything? It's an unbelievable burden to take on, to answer these questions, yet every human being has an implied responsibility to answer them.
We will all feel the frustration of our existence at some point. And then, when it's over, the frustration will peak its head back in again. Existential frustration prompts one of two responses over enough time. The first, and perhaps more common is resentment. One gets betrayed enough, and they become the begrudged betrayer. One is abused, they become the abuser.
The perfect example of existential frustration making someone bitter and evil is the TV show Breaking Bad. Walter White is faced with death - something he was ill-prepared for. When suddenly death becomes a very real possibility, he begins to reflect on his life. He was taken advantage of in his career. He was disrespected. He was disgraced. Nothing went his way. So under the surface of that seemingly innocent, mild mannered high school chemistry teacher, was a vengeful murderer. All it took was the realization of his death to finish off the long burning fuse of resentment in him.
Most of us never make it to the vengeful killer part of that story. But that spirit lives in us, if we are resentful long enough. The same existential frustration that makes a Walter White has also been known to make a Viktor Frankl - the author of the famous Man's Search For Meaning.
It goes without saying that somebody like Viktor Frankl, a survivor of Aushcwitz, had at least a few reasons to be angry. He lost his wife. He was tortured, starved, and spat on for months upon months in the harshest of conditions. He describes his experience in graphic detail in his book. Yet Viktor came out of this experience feeling like he understood the meaning of life. And it's a shockingly optimistic view to have.
He arrived back home, likely traumatized, and took it upon himself to write a book about the meaning of life. It's gone on to inspire millions, including myself, despite not having been born until a year after he died.
We are all betrayed. We are all failures. We are all incompetent. We all have justifiable reasons to be angry. But the people who fall in love with their pain are the ones that change the world for the better. It is possible. From the Viktor Frankl's of the world, to the Martin Luther King Jr's of the world, history has shown us very real examples of people pressing into their pain and creating world altering beauty out of their willingness to confront it.
Those who confront their pain and betrayal with optimistic determination to make it better for themselves and everyone around them, eventually find a way to do so. You have that power. It's in your hands. Your response to your pain will determine that amount of significance you are able to identify in this life. Take it on. Whatever the burden is. Take it on.