Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pain, Wisdom, and Love in Action

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self, so therefore, trust the physician and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility. - Kahlil Gibran

I attended a community ritual last night. It was a beautiful ritual about remembering where you come from, knowing that all that has transpired in your life, good and bad, has contributed to who you are. To forget even the painful parts is to disregard an opportunity to learn, to grow wiser, stronger, more whole. It was about forgiveness, not for the sake of the transgressor, but for ourselves, freeing us of a burden that keeps us from moving forward.

In the course of the ritual, two unrelated young people, one a teenager, one just barely twentyone, were sobbing. Knowing a bit about both of them, I know that their pain was genuine, the kind that, in both cases, comes from people they love doing things they can't understand. And it struck me that their tears, the pain they were feeling, was just as Gibran said, "...the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding." I pray that they will keep growing, keep chipping away at the shell, and that they'll allow the outpouring of love from their larger community to hold them up while they grow through the pain.

Last night was an opportunity to witness many wonders.

When the young man was so obviously hurting, several men in the community stepped around the circle to enfold him, hold him in hugs close and strong, kiss the top of his head, speak to him softly. Men...big, beautiful, strong, loving men...doing what men in our culture have so often forgotten (or never learned) how to care for each other, to nurture their boys into men with both strength and tenderness.

The young woman received the same kind of support, more from the women but not exclusively. And in both cases, the parents...the young woman's father, the young man's mother...both standing beside their children and feeling that pain as surely and as deeply, were encouraged and supported, too. I remember thinking as I watched the young man and his mother that it must be like giving birth all over again for her.

Part of the understanding that comes from going through our children's pain with them is that it is their pain, their growth. We share the pain, but we can't take it away from them, can't do it for them, and can't lead them to wisdom on a painless path. In my experience, that's been the hardest part of being a parent.

Earlier in the evening, a beautiful young mother and wife with a disease that causes her terrible pain was sick. A number of us tended to her as best we could, using touch and energy work to aid her. Later, when the young people were hurting so, she was right there, comforting them, sharing her own precious energy to help them through pain when she has so much of her own.

Love is a verb or it's a lie. My husband says that frequently and I've come to understand the absolute truth of it. Love acts. There are times when the only act possible or advisable may be a silent prayer, but even that is a conscious action. Answering honestly, can any of us say that we always act in love? Do we always do what we can, when we can, including offering that heartfelt, silent prayer when that's all we can do?

I can't say it, though I wish I could. It's a goal of mine to use my hands, my voice, my strength and energy to be a loving force in the world. I have to remind myself frequently that I can't do everything, but I can do one thing...that I don't know everything but that doesn't mean I don't know anything...that if I can't heal or feed or hug or tend the world, I can heal or feed or hug or tend love...and when I have neither a dollar nor an hour to give, I have a voice with which to be an advocate.

I am but one, but I am not the only one. Love acts.


  1. Your wisdom helps me grow as a person, not as an isolated individual, but as a human being connected to those around me. Thank you.

  2. I agree with you that love is an act, and I confess that I don't always love. Imbedded within this confession is the implicit belief that there is no higher calling, than to love. And that I need to improve. I appreciate the fact that you not only stress it, but stress applying it.

  3. Anonymous1:45 PM

    Your writing is motivating and oh, so very powerful! ~zephyr


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