By Rev Paul N. Papas II
January 3, 2011
The Pain Of It All
There are not many people I know that like pain. I have met people who enjoy inflicting pain upon others, but thankfully they are the exception rather than the rule. Most people I’ve met would prefer to experience joy and delight.
Pain, which is a distressing sensation, can be a physical suffering or distress from an injury or illness, a mental or emotional suffering or torment. Pain could also be a result of torture or a miserable experience. Of course an extreme worry can cause pain.
Pain is a natural way of our bodies getting our attention. — and it works! That knife blade going deeper in will cause us damage. That person may be violent. That food smells bad. These aren’t pleasant experiences — but we’d be worse off without them.
There are a rare amount of people that do not feel pain, but they can be seriously injured without knowing it.
Pain and suffering are related. Our pain reaction does feel like a reaction — it happens before we think or reflect on what we are experiencing. It feels direct and immediate. But the years we spend in childhood learning about danger and pain — and the fact that our reaction can be triggered due to past experiences — mean that the distinction between pain and suffering can be a slippery one.
Some years ago I heard about an unusual experiment that some scientists conducted. The scientists wired a cage with low level voltage in the bottom of the cage, they put dogs in it and then they closed the door. They sent a current through. It wasn’t enough to harm the dogs but it was enough to inflict some mild pain. You can guess the dog’s reaction. They jumped, they barked, they howled. Well, they kept this up several times a day, but the reaction eventually changed. After a while the dogs barely twitched when the current went through the floor of that cage. They had gotten conditioned to it. In fact, the scientists then opened the cage door, sent the current through the floor and not one dog even tried to leave. It’s as if they’d given up ever getting away from the pain. One last step in the experiment: they put a dog in the cage who had not been conditioned to the current and they left the door open. Well, they turned on the juice and the new dog knew exactly what to do. He ran right out of the cage followed by all the other dogs!
One dog knew what it was to be free; he knew where the hope was. But the one who had become conditioned to a hopeless situation didn’t even try to leave when he could – until one of his own came into that cage and showed him the way out.
And so it is with some of the people around you. They’ve been hurt by bad relationships, broken relationships, selfishness, loneliness, betrayal, but they look around and they see everyone else living in the same stress and confusion and emotional hollowness. And they decide this must be the way it is and the way it always will be. Just like those dogs in that cage.
The only way they’ll find hope in real life is if one of their own comes into their cage and shows them the way out. We want the shock-free environment outside the cage. There are those that find their way out of the cage. Unfortunately, many of us have forgotten the people who are still in there. We work with them, we live around them, and we meet them every day.
There are people you know who are accepting a level of life they should never accept. It’s lonelier, it’s emptier, it’s more disappointing, and it’s more fatal than it was ever meant to be. There is a door that leads out. But they haven’t gone through it yet, maybe because no one has come into their cage to lead them out. Are you the one they are waiting for you?
Rev. Paul N. Papas II is a Pastoral Counselor with Narrow Path Ministries of Massachusetts and Arizona and the Founder of Family Renewal Center in Arizona. http://www.narrowpathministries.org , http://www.familyrenewalcenteraz.org