Pain is one of those inevitable universal conditions of life that is difficult to qualify or quantify for another person. We think we understand it since we’ve all experienced it at some time, either briefly or for what seems like forever.
Medical personnel show us those little smiley-face charts and we attempt to pick out the one that best exemplifies our current level of sensation. Based on that and their own assessment, doctors dole out the medications and treatments they hope will alleviate at least some of the pain and allow us to live our lives as normally as possible.
Loved ones are sympathetic and do their best to ease our pain with assistance, distraction, words of comfort, and prayer. But in the end there is only the pain and the person who is living with it.
Each person’s acceptance of pain, and their adaptation to its existence and limitations, is based on their own mental and physical condition, their past experience, their overall attitude about life, their expectations, and their tolerance. None of us can truly understand the physical sensation that another person is feeling because even if we have “been there, done that” as the saying goes, pain can’t be recreated. It is one of the blessings of life that we can remember being hurt, remember feeling horrible, remember wanting relief, but we can’t bring about the actual pain of a past injury. We might come close in a nightmare, but we typically awaken before doing so, and much of what we are reliving is really the emotional pain.
Our emotions certainly play a huge part in our management of pain, especially chronic pain. While the goal of care after an injury or surgery is a smiley face 0 or 1, many of us have learned to live quite well with a 3. Pain can be tolerated at certain levels if it doesn’t interfere too much with daily functions and quality of life. Most people over a certain age will tell you that your body has a way of reminding you of past injuries and indiscretions, so many of us are accustomed to a little daily resistance from our aging bodies. Others with more serious diseases and conditions cope with daily pain that is beyond our comprehension.
My hope today is that we will be more understanding and tolerant of those in pain, including ourselves. Let us not lose sight of the fact that we all have the ability to make a difference in someone’s life by being kind and encouraging. Prayers for those of you in pain...