“If we are strong enough to be weak enough, we are given a
wound that never heals. It is the gift that keeps the heart open”
The Invitation by Oriah
It is hard to stare pain in the face—emotional or physical—but life will not be fully lived until we come to terms with suffering and that it is an inescapable fact of life on the planet. The effort to escape has led us to this very strange place of seeking to stay numb enough not to notice. Addictions, violence, runaway materialism, fundamentalist thinking, religion that wants to make God a personal errand runner and many other extremes are employed in the effort to avoid pain and suffering.
In the past few days, we have sat and watched in great horror as Russia invaded Ukraine. The pain and sorrow that is being caused by this act of inhumanity and barbarism calls forth a multiplicity of emotions. But, at the end of the day, we are left with nothing but our sorrow about the horror. While our leaders can do whatever they think that they can, as one individual we are quite limited and even when we give money to aid organizations and send assistance of any type to the region, it is no consolation. What are we left to do?
Oftentimes, there is a temptation to justify the suffering as I have heard a bit of from some people in response to this invasion or to try to forget that it is happening by refusing to engage it in any manner. The problem with responses designed to avoid the pain is that they do not come without a cost. Each time a person chooses a path of avoidance, small parts of their life shrink. Their heart becomes more closed and new possibilities to live fully become compromised.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine looms large in front of us now, but there are innumerable other instances where avoidance is the method that is being employed to address painful situations instead of taking the time to engage with them and accepting whatever comes. We see this regarding race in America as more white people search for ways to minimize the pain of history. In the past two Blogs, I spoke about painful threads which are woven in the fabric of white and black life together in America and especially how some of those dynamics play out regarding relationships between black and white females. Sadly enough, there is a huge temptation to avoid the entire subject or to minimize it or do anything with the ideas except engage them.
“If we ever become strong enough to be weak enough” to accept the wound that comes to live in our heart when we say “yes” to the invitation to be brokenhearted as we walk through this life, we will be freer. The effort to avoid the pain causes folks to form organizations to argue about the validity of history or to simply try to ban things such as the 1619 Project. Honestly, it is very sad to think that a thoughtful adult would believe that to simply say, “we don’t want to know about the history because we do not want to be upset” will take them to a safe place where there will be no pain related to race. There is no such corner on this earth, racism has been exported around the world. Thus, denial of history is not a remedy.
Whether it is the Russian invasion of Ukraine, systemic racism or a friend dying, the only remedy that works is sitting quietly and having one’s heart opened by pain which creates the space to hold the pain. This acceptance will lead to the birth of new possibilities for everyday life to be lived better and open areas that were completely unknown. Denial helps to keep this access to a larger life hidden.
When one is in the middle of pain, it is very difficult to see that it has any purpose except to cause destabilization and misery, but efforts to avoid it simply create more misery in the long run. One expression of that misery is fear. Fear that comes from the fact that there is a realization that one’s life is being lived on a shaky foundation, which is true since pain cannot truly be avoided. Then one must seek to find a way to erase the fear or to get deeper into it and it becomes a constant negative dance which is deadly.
The world is eagerly awaiting those with the courage to be brokenhearted. Take a brave half step in that direction and see how it serves you.