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‘On Pain’ – Andrew Griffes

To dare to look another in the eyes while they bare the pain they carry, and not rush to save them is the
greatest respect you can give. To do so, you must also dare to see yourself in the deepest pain you face
and resist the desperation to save yourself. Only after you have bowed to this inescapable pain can you
trust that your impulse is clear. The offering you make to the teacher that is your pain is all the clever
effort to outwit it, and the willingness to be bested by it many times over. In this fight, all of your
cowardice and desperation will come into view. After your cleverness runs out, you will have to face your
madness. You will know you are capable of evil, and it is that knowledge which is your only hope of
reckoning with your pride. Your pain will metabolize your pride if you surrender it. And to allow another
to see your pain is to surrender your pride. Then, when you see that pain in another’s eyes, you will see
too the courage they’ve smuggled in, and the immense task they have in wrestling with it.

When we ask for the easy solution to our pain, we deny the strength and courage we have to face our most
challenging lessons.

When you accept defeat in the face of what is bigger than you, there is no parade for you, no ribbons or
titles. There is only honor, and honor is a secret language. It is transmitted in a look between those who
have ventured to where they are most alone, and found there that they are never in fact alone.

In a time when the language of trauma is ubiquitous, cashing in our pain for status is a bargain we are
constantly tempted with. It appears to be the antidote to denying our own pain and the ills of the world.
We can have a form of belonging, but pay for it by remaining alienated from ourselves. And we will insist
that others remain alienated from themselves.

Pain starts in separation and leads toward redemption.

In the jaws of pain lies the freedom we long for. At first, we think freedom equates to freedom from pain,
a petty freedom only denial can sustain. Every addiction has this at the core. But only by venturing into
the pain, are we freed of our denial.

When others ask us to help them achieve what they want, it is easy to win their favor by assuring them
they can have it. It is much riskier to acknowledge that what they really want is much bigger than what
they say, and that achieving it requires that they square off with the pain they’ve become an expert at

Knowing our pain intimately leaves us no exit from what is important, what we care for in this world. And
that is scarier than experiencing the pain itself. So denying the pain is not to save us from hurting (which
we already know we can endure), but to save us from caring despite what hurts.

Pain is not the enemy. It is the ally.

Pain is the invitation to wisdom.