Updated: Jan 16, 2021
The Princess Bride has got to be one of my favorite movies of all time. Often said to be the most quotable movie ever made, I can't help but agree. There's a scene when the masked hero and his love are arguing while on the run. In a moment of frustration, the hero turns to his Princess and says, "Life is pain, Highness! Anyone who tells you differently is selling something." Not the first quote that comes to mind, but today, a truthful one.
Pain, it seems, is inescapable. The very act of birthing a child into the world, while a joyful miracle, is filled with great pain. If you've heard the gospel story, not even God exempts Himself from pain. To have and live life is to also confront and experience pain. One is not excluded from the other.
Cheerful thoughts, huh?
So if we cannot escape or avoid pain, what is to be done? Well, we have been given something else in this life too: a choice. Choice is where our power to shape and mold comes from. We are free to choose good things, bad things, and neutral things. If we boil it down, we are free to choose our pleasure and our pain.
We will each of us have pain in our life, whether we choose it or not. No one gets a free pass. Not making a choice is still making a choice. Being a good parent is hard and being a bad parent is terrible. Being healthy is certainly a pain, but so is being unhealthy. Good relationships are hard and bad ones can ruin us.
Each choice has it's own consequences, and each will also have it's own set of pain and hardship. Our only move then is to pick our pain. Pick our hard stuff. If we must live with pain we will need to make peace with it. Not all pain is chosen. Some of it is foisted on us by the choices of others or the reality of situations outside of our control. This kind of pain will also bring it's own set of choices to us along with it's own set of consequences.
Did someone betray you? In the midst of that pain, you still have choices. It sounds a lot like something we tell our children. You can only control you. You control your words, reactions, and decisions. Such a simple concept we teach kids, but oh so hard to master in our own lives.
Life is hard. Life is painful. Life is miraculous. Life is full of wonders. There are two sides to this coin and we live with both. Today, we get another opportunity to look at the life we've been given and make choices. Yes, those choices also include pain and hardships. Each one will have it's own set of benefits and hardships. With that comes some important questions.
Do you actually want good things for yourself or have you made it your job to punish yourself? Have you used past pain as an excuse not to make choices that will benefit you? If you were to forgive others for the pain they inflicted on you, would you not also free yourself from that same pain?
See? A simple concept, but not so easy to implement. If we were to really sit down with our pain and listen, there's a lot of truth there about what we believe and how we view ourselves. That's not an easy task and it certainly is not a comfortable one. The alternative isn't attractive either. To ignore our pain will only invite more of it.
Many people will be trying to improve themselves this year. They will set goals, reach for better, and vow to be different this year. These are all wonderful things to aspire to and they will all include some form of pain and hardship. It's part of the cost of living. So yes, set goals, reach for better and work on improving yourself and your life. Count the cost, acknowledge the hardship and pick your pain.