Pain has a voice
As I alluded to in an earlier writing, pain has a voice. It can be difficult to distinguish the voice of pain from the voice of the person who is speaking but pain often causes people to say things that they normally would not say if not for the presence of the pain. This is true of physical pain and emotional pain. You may have heard the phrase- hurt people hurt people, meaning that someone who has been hurt in the past often hurts others. This can certainly be true.
Near the end of her time on earth, my mother lived with my family. She had lived in the small town in which I grew up and since it was an hour and a half away from where I lived then, her moving in with me was the only option. It was a small house to begin with, and the only place for my mom to be was in the living room. There simply wasn’t anywhere else. This required adjustments on everyone’s part, as I had three kids under 7 at the time. Mom was fortunate to have a great group of friends who came up to visit her often. One day while her friend was there, I had gone upstairs for something. As the house was small, I could hear them talking while I was upstairs. I heard my mom tell her friend that I didn’t want her to be there, and I didn’t want to take care of her. The bitterness in her voice stopped me in my tracks. Now my mom always had a sharp tongue but this felt different. As an only child, I had made a lot of sacrifices for her in the past year and a half and it never seemed like enough. For her to be angry at me really cut.
When I came downstairs, Betty knew I had obviously heard my mom and told me later that it was the cancer talking, not my mom. At that time though, it was impossible for me to distinguish the voice of cancer from the voice of my mom.
Contrary to the old rhyme of sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me, words can indeed hurt us. If fact, words can cripple and break us just as much as any stone ever could. It’s a bible principle that words have power. God didn’t mix up some clay to form the earth, he spoke it into existence. The words of God have creative power. The very beginning of the story of mankind started with words. (See the book of Genesis)
The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Prov. 12:18
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Prov. 18:21
I doubt very much that my mom intended for me to hear her words or that they were intended to hurt me, but yet they did. That’s because by its very nature, pain hurts. Please hear this. Pain is exactly that- painful. And when pain speaks, it’s natural that its voice would bring hurt as well. My mom has been gone a long time now and I got over the hurt of her words. But the lessons I learned during that time still serve me well.
It’s fairly easy to see that someone is sick or in physical pain. Because we can see this and understand how they may feel, it may be easier for us to give some mercy and take their difficult words with a grain of salt. This gets harder to do if it’s someone very close to you and even harder if it’s an extended situation. If you are on the receiving end of the voice of pain for a prolonged period, you must care for yourself during this time. More on this momentarily.
It can be even more difficult to recognize the voice of pain when it is coming from someone who is physically fine but experiencing emotional pain. Especially if that person is us.
Our own pain has a voice and it speaks to us. Maybe I am the only clumsy one here but have you ever ran into something and it really hurt? Unfortunately, this seems to happen to me a lot. My first response it usually to call the desk a stupid piece of crap. Or, I say something to myself, like you seriously just ran into that again? What is wrong with you? Why don’t you pay more attention? Think about it. Next time you get hurt, pay attention to your first response. For some people, there is a constant stream of negative words that they say to themselves. Pain blames. It lashes out. It accuses. Pain is angry. Our own pain can yell at us pretty loudly and blame us.
I would be guessing that for most of us, thinking of pain in this way is new. But realizing this can help us separate the voice of pain and learn to give ourselves some grace. This may sound like a strange thing to say but, I encourage you to think about your thoughts. If there is old emotional pain that has been with you for a long time, chances are that you may not even recognize its voice.
For example, if you have suffered a serious rejection, the pain from rejection certainly has a voice. When you find yourself in a situation where it seems remotely like a rejection, (why wasn’t I invited to the get together) pain will tell you it’s because you aren’t wanted. You aren’t interesting enough, you have nothing that anyone else wants. And on and on. Over and over, situation after situation.
Whether our own pain is speaking to us or its voice is coming through another, we don’t have to accept the hurtful words of pain. Of course we may hear the words but we don’t have to allow them to penetrate our heart and accept them as truth. Again, this may be a new thought to some and may feel strange at first, but we can, and should “talk back”. If we are experiencing hurtful words coming through another person and we recognize that pain is behind the words, we can “stop” them before they pierce our heart. If we view painful words as Proverbs describes them, like swords that pierce, we can also picture our protection, which is truth, as a type of armor. Again, we will certainly hear the hurtful voice of pain but we talk back to it and say no, that’s not truth.
If you know me well, you know that one of my favorite shows is Law and Order. One thing that I always notice is how victims and families get angry at the police who are trying to assist them. Screaming in their faces, yelling, cussing them out. I mean come on! These are the people who are actually helping you and you go off on them? I cannot imagine myself in the position of the police who stand there calmly and let them yell. I want to scream back that I am on their side! Until I remember the voice of pain. The police understand this and that understanding is what enables them to calmly face the barrage of words. They don’t take it personally and recognize it for what it is.
In the situation with my mother, when I overheard her talking to her friend, instead of allowing her words to pierce my heart, I could have said to myself, no that’s not truth. Her illness is causing her to lash out but her words are not truth. I am doing the best I can and I will not allow her words to bring hurt and division. I may have even told my mom that I did want her to be there, and I know it was difficult for her. Would her words still have stung? Most likely. But they would not have taken root in my heart.
As awkward as it may feel at first, sometimes we have to talk back to painful words. Remember, it is a Biblical principle that the power of life and death is in the tongue. If pain is spewing hateful words at you, speak life back. I’m not necessarily saying that you speak back to the person, although sometimes you may need to. I’m saying that we can refuse to accept hurtful words. Instead of embracing hurtful words, we resist them. We say to ourselves, no, I don’t agree with this, I don’t believe this, I won’t accept this as truth. Make sense?
In this world the voice of pain will always be present but it doesn’t have to cripple or destroy us. My prayer is that you will begin to recognize the voice of pain and not let it hinder your life.