Transforming our pain

Posted by Kenetha Stanton on

prickly pear cacti from my yard
Prickly pear cacti from my yard


"If you don't transform your suffering, you'll transmit it." ~Richard Rohr

I have a good sized patch of prickly pear cacti in one of my landscaping beds in my yard that I inherited from the former owner.

These cacti have tiny spines on them that go through fabric and gloves of any kind at even the slightest hint of a brush against them to embed themselves in my skin, where they burn like bee stings for days. They are a dangerous menace!

For a few weeks in early summer every year, however, they break out in the most beautiful golden flowers that completely transform that whole area with blossoms that are actually safe to touch.

These cacti remind me of myself and Richard Rohr's quote above. When I am stuck in my own suffering or have had old suffering triggered and brought to the surface, I can be an awful lot like menace these cacti are.

I'm prickly, quick to sting others, and am often guilty of spreading my suffering to those around me with unkind words and actions.

It's not that I mean to do this. It's as if it flows out of me uncontrollably as a natural outpouring of my own suffering and pain, no matter how hard I try to tame it.

Then there are those times when I'm able to transform my pain through my own healing into compassion and generosity to others. Those moments are like the flowering of these cacti in the spring when I am able to spread beauty in the world around me (despite my still fundamentally prickly nature).

It's not a perfect metaphor, of course, but it's another reminder to me of why it's so important for me to deal proactively with the wounds, the brokenness, and the pain in my life.

When I think I'm managing my suffering by suppressing it, hiding it, or ignoring it, I invariably wind up transmitting it instead. This only leads to more pain, suffering, and brokenness in my own life and in the lives of people I care about as I do damage to my relationships.

On the other hand, where I've dealt with my suffering and wounded places and transformed them with healing, I am much better able to be the kind of person I want to be. I am able to spread more kindness and more healing to those around me instead.

We often deal with our pain (or not) based on what it will do for us. We want to be out of pain. We want to stop suffering. We want to feel better.

But that's only one part of why we should address it. The work we do toward healing our wounds does as much (or more) for everyone around us as it does for ourselves.

We have the choice to continue to transmit our suffering or to do the hard work of transforming that suffering so we can transmit healing and compassion.

Which will you choose?


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