She walked into the room with a groan as I sat idly strumming my guitar. After hours of throwing herself on the ground, rolling on her neck and kicking her legs into the air at impossible angles for dance auditions, her body ached with the intensity only a good workout can give. Pain racked her body, yet she was satisfied.
That’s when I started thinking. I looked down at the bruised pads of my fingertips that burned from playing the guitar for a solid hour. I thought about the way my mind seemed to ache from the intensity of my concentration. Everything hurt, yet I was just as satisfied as my roommate.
That’s because pain is inherent in growth. Without suffering, we achieve nothing. We don’t learn, and we certainly don’t become better, more interesting people. Pain is something intrinsic to learning. We have to make that first mistake before we can learn from it and develop. We have to throw ourselves at the ground and hurt before we can master the steps of the dance, or suffer the pain of the steel strings before we can play the guitar. It’s just the way it is.
Yet what I find so frustrating in today’s society is that so many people are so deathly afraid of pain. They don’t want to risk stepping out of their comfort zone because they don’t want to make a mistake and look foolish. They don’t want to try something new because what if they mess it up or what if they don’t like it? So many are crippled by their fear of the painful embarrassment they could face. Yet embarrassment, like anything else, is a consequence of growth. Trying something new doesn’t always work out, but at least you tried — and that means you can try again with a different strategy, or try something else next time. It may have been painful, but at least you know what to do now. You can take that experience, learn from it and improve.
I see people in my life who have stopped growing because they have stopped putting themselves out there, stopped challenging themselves. They allow their lives to coast along the easy, mindless tracks they have come to depend upon. They don’t want to hurt and they certainly don’t want to make mistakes. But they forget, that by refusing to accept pain into their lives, they have also stopped learning, stopped growing as people. In short, they’re boring. And it sickens me, because they could be so much more! But they don’t want to be. In fact, they refuse to even acknowledge that they could be, if only they dared to venture outside the warmth of their cozy insulated boxes.
Yet the truth is that the pain inherent in growth shouldn’t be feared. Pain is something that comes and goes, much like the tide. And in its wake comes new understanding and knowledge. Suffer through the pain and frustration of learning to play the guitar, suffer through the embarrassment of an awkward social interaction, suffer through the heartbreak and even if it doesn’t work out the first time, or the second time, the more you try, the better your chances and the more you learn. Believe me, no matter how much it hurts, it’s worth it.