We need to feel our own Pain. And we must understand our own story if we hope to help other people find theirs.
As leaders we take great measures to insulate and isolate ourselves from Pain. This is our model from infancy. I remember driving each one of our newborn babies back home from the hospital. Though they were buckled into a protective car seat and surrounded by four walls of airbags, twenty mph still felt too fast to me. My wife, Kelly, and I cushioned their reality, pushing Pain out the door.
But given enough time, Pain eventually breaks through and corners us. When it does, most of us run for cover, even though were church leaders and we know better. We numb ourselves, because when we’re numb we don’t feel anything—the good or the bad. We shout for our savior, noise, to come rescue us and drown out our ache. We busy ourselves by asking activity to join us.
Unfortunately, by fleeing our Pain we inadvertently also flee our potential.
Life gives us plenty of escape buttons to press when we feel our Pain mounting. These distractions and diversions serve as coping strategies and survival tactics. Seventeenth-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal observed them and accurately forewarned us of their lethal effects:
The only thing that consoles us for our miseries is distraction, yet that is the greatest of our wretchednesses. Because that is what mainly prevents us from thinking about ourselves and leads us imperceptibly to damnation. Without it we should be bored, and boredom would force us to search for a firmer way out, but distraction entertains us and leads us imperceptibly to death.
Pascal believed that boredom would eventually lead to our escape. Yet he also believed that anesthetizing our pain unconsciously invites mediocrity. And no one can argue that we are a world of mediocrity.
I wonder what Pascal would think of our distractions today. Spending endless hours plugged into video games, excavating Facebook statuses, and consuming reality TV leaves us numb and unfulfilled. Vicariously living through someone else’s life always leaves us wanting more.
We’re spirit, not just flesh. We’re meant to show up present in our own lives. We’re meant to be fully alive, not half dead. We’re designed for a fuller expression and fuller expansion of what we currently experience. We long for more—more resources to share, more compassion to give, more fulfillment to experience, more purpose to taste, more peace to feel, and more joy to spread.
Despite all this, we’re deathly afraid and we embody the “F” word—FEAR.
We resist traveling anyplace we’ve never been, because on those roads we don’t know the way. We want a map, a compass, a GPS, but we forget that the richest roads are unpaved and unknown.