Pain casts us into many roles. It is a clever dramatist. One moment we are smug and disdain it—when it is light—the next moment it can torment us into unrecognizable beasts—when it is at its worst. It has the power to inspire, turning us into saints who run to alleviate the pain of others, and it has also the creativity to debase, transmogrifying us into devils who run to destroy others in order to alleviate the pain within ourselves.
I could be a Hitler. Sure. I could be a Mother Teresa as well. I could also be the drug addict laying on the sidewalk. I could be the parent praying fervently at their child’s hospital bedside, or the parent drowning their children in a bathtub. Pain drives us to many different conclusions. It can make us mad, and it can drive us mad. There are not enough tears in heaven, I think, to soothe all the pain on this earth. There is a hope of a future world without pain, but for now, there is enough pain in one square mile of dirt, to fill an entire universe.
Sometimes we are able to bear pain, by God’s grace, and can extend our hearts to others, helping to bear their pain as well. We enter into their pain, and we share it, and together we are softened and drawn close in bonds of charitable love. We endure, we struggle, we pray, we do whatever we can to lessen the pain of those we love. We are broken by the pain, and are subjected to extremes. The pain we feel in our own heart ignites and burns within us, and we pour ourselves out: in anger, in rampant love, in vengeance, in hope and faith, in desperation. The pain we see in others can make us frantic—though once our efforts to help them appear fruitless—it can turn our heart cold, we let ourselves freeze, to protect ourselves from further pain. We cannot look any longer, we turn the other way. It is sensible, what else can we do? The pain of others, especially those we know and love, will tear us to shreds, it will annihilate us, and break us, seemingly, beyond repair.
Sometimes we prefer narcissism, hedonism, or some other diversion from the pain of this life. At some point it just can be too much to bear; everyone has their limit. How can we fault them? Certainly we can judge them, especially if we aren’t feeling too much pain ourselves at the moment. I can’t fault them. Pain dialed up to a certain intensity is the stimulus for all manner of human failings. I’m grateful I haven’t endured that much pain.
But I’ve certainly had my share of it, and more than I’d like. As we all have, I would suspect. So, how can I judge even those who judge, or those who accuse others? Human judgement of others is just one more human response to pain; to the frustration that life, and human nature, isn’t what we wish it would be. Pain is a vicious cycle; one pain leading to another pain, and that pain feeding the next one. There is an end to pain in the next life (supposing you believe in that), but for now, pain is a very demented dramatist—casting us into roles we’d mainly like to avoid.