Turning adversity into advantage: Discovering the silver lining in pain

By Umurungi Gisele
On 1 January 2024 at 09:57

What do you feel when your cheeks are flooded with tears of pain? Despair, agony, and any other thing that could possibly describe the darkness in your heart, right? Just like me and anyone, you just slip under your bed covers, let out a long sight and wish for the end of that gloomy day.

Just like that, the refrain of Imagine Dragon’s song plays in your ears, “Pain, you made me a believer”. And with a confused facial expression, you wonder how a person can really praise pain like that, regardless of all the scars it has left with your heart. “Is that just a metaphor? Or is pain some kind of blessing or something?” You wonder.

In this life that some describe as ‘a double edged sword’, pain is almost like a stone that none can dodge. It exists and lives with us. Pain has created billions of enemies around the world, because, who would not hate it? However, I just have a simple question. ‘Have you ever thought of how your life would be without pain?’ Just picture a life where you can’t feel burnt upon touching a hot saucepan. A life where you can’t feel the stab of a nail until you see your feet painted with blood. Isn’t that even scarier?

Pain is more than just what it feels like, it is the body’s way of communication to us. Pain tells us what is going on. It tells us that our body temperature has risen, something got into our eyes, or simply that something went wrong in our body. Pain is not just a bad thing, pain is a sign that something bad happened. If we look on a brighter side, pain is just a loyal messenger.

Even if it is a curse to almost everyone, pain is just a pipe dream to some. To people with CIPA, a condition in which one’s body has an inability to feel pain, pain is something they wish they could feel. These people can’t even know it when they accidentally sit on a hot stove. They will always stay in the shadows until their body gets all destroyed beyond repair. So, do you still think pain is a bad thing?

Pain warns us

Just a simple example. The body’s way to let you know that you might have been attacked by a certain bacteria or a virus, is by raising the body temperature, giving you a headache, feeling nauseous, etc. upon these painful symptoms, you consult a medical scientist who diagnoses the disease and treats it. Now imagine if you couldn’t know that you’re attacked? You would never get treated and in the end, you’d just die. Pain warns us that danger is approaching so that we can get ourselves out of it before it is already too late.

It makes us passionate

All that pain does is make us question everything before we throw ourselves into it. Pain is what makes a teen come to school a bit earlier today, because she was punished yesterday. It is what makes a hungry person work regardless of the weakness. The fear of feeling pain tomorrow makes us wake up and give meaning to whatever we do.

Pain helps us set priorities

A wise man called Nietzsche said, ‘what does not kill you makes you stronger’. Just like a muscle, in order to be built up, we need to experience some portions of pain. Going through something bad trains us both physically and mentally so that tomorrow, we can even endure the worst.

It makes us wise

According to Al Ben-Shahar, a lecturer at Harvard University, wisdom emerges from the experience of suffering. It is every human’s nature that, when things go as expected, we rarely ask questions.

In the presence of difficulties, however, our minds are forced to reflect on our experiences, make different choices and find preventive measures for the worst. In what Khenchen Könchog Gyaltshen, founder of several Buddhist centres worldwide, addresses as the benefits of suffering, wisdom hits the top.

The truth is, we’ll always face difficulties as long as we are still breathing. Pain will just inform us and force us to find answers to that. We’ll always hate pain because it makes us cry, hurt and worse, but more importantly, we’ll always listen when pain speaks. We’ll always pay attention, learn and improve, thanks to pain.