A desire to protect people from hurt seems to be a major goal of American culture right now. Public and private conversations about various hot topics are often shut down or sidestepped by those who don’t want to hurt anyone by expressing an opinion that someone might not like. Causing hurt seems to have become the ultimate evil, and protecting from hurt is always the best, most inspiring choice.
I’ve been reflecting on this anti-hurt approach to life, and I don’t think it actually works. In fact, I think it can cause worse hurt than it prevents. For a simple example on a physical level, would we refuse to let a doctor stitch up our child’s wound because the stitching would hurt? If we avoid the hurt of stitching, we will actually cause a far worse hurt as infection sets in. I think you can apply this metaphor on the emotional and spiritual level as well. It seems to me that at every level, there’s a difference between hurt that leads to healing and hurt that truly harms. There are times when it is definitely the right choice to prevent hurt, but there are times
when it is not.
We need hurt in order to survive, and we need hurt to grow. I heard a wonderful church service recently about the story of Jacob wrestling with God. The minister began by telling the kids about an interesting thing that happened many years ago when he lived in Arizona. Some scientists built a huge greenhouse, and one thing they did was to plant trees inside the greenhouse. They provided everything a tree needs to grow, and for some odd reason the trees were weak and easily fell over. At first, they couldn’t figure out why. Finally, they discovered that trees need the wind to blow against them as they grow, or else they are not strong enough to stay up when they get tall. He explained to the kids about the Lord lovingly wrestling with Jacob to provide him with the ability to grow stronger and better.
For the adults, the minister pointed out that we all need to wrestle. Church is not a place to bliss out and ignore all our problems and just feel good; it’s a place to come to get and give help, inspiration, comfort and guidance as we actually face the issues in our lives and wrestle with them. What an interesting thought. There’s no way to face issues and wrestle with them while simultaneously making sure no one ever gets hurt. Very often, simply acknowledging the existence of a problem hurts a lot, let alone the process of dealing with it. But what will happen if we seek to avoid that hurt?
I’ve caught myself on occasion fearing one outcome so much that I automatically choose the opposite without considering whether that choice too will cause outcomes I should fear. We all fear hurt. Maybe our lives would be better if we managed to remember that, while some hurt is truly damaging in the short and long term, there is also hurt that actually leads to healing, progress, growth and strength.