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What is friendship when all is said and done but the giving and taking of wounds?
— Frederick Buechner

Hebrews 12 (esp. 14-15)
Galatians 6:1-5
Exodus 17:8-13

Someone I know recently completed his first triathlon. He hadn’t trained, but he had finished. Asked what he learned, he replied, “Run toward the pain.”

An increasingly progress-oriented culture instructs its members to avoid, or eliminate, pain. Might we risk heresy and question the genius of avoiding all pain?

Pain plays a role in the production of value. Great achievement almost necessarily begins in discomfort and soon moves into the pain of sacrifice. Look at the costs of building a business, earning a degree, winning in sports, purchasing a home, or managing a social career. Each of these includes some measure of pain. Birth, the grand experience and metaphor, runs full of pain for the mother.

So relationship goes. For unity that joins and lasts, pain may take a part in its production. Typically, pain breaks the unspoken promise of togetherness and leads friends apart. What pain is that, though? That of hurts unaddressed? Of people seeing the reality of their actions and motives? Of dealing in the currency of humanity?

What of the pain of working toward agreement, resolution and forgiveness? Might this pain draw us closer? Might it actually serve to bind us?

Any college football team playing on New Year’s Day knows this. Ditto a basketball team reaching the Final Four. Major League ball clubs playing in October and NBA or NHL teams playing in June have learned this lesson. With few exceptions, the fires of grueling discipline and sacrifice forged the bonds for these groups. The pain taught them and united them. What’s more, the pain didn’t prove too high a price; it reminded them they’d paid too high a price to quit, to walk away, to give in. The unity they’d earned with sacrifice mattered.

When you encounter difficulty with another human being, don’t try to avoid further pain. You’re better off working out the differences, resolving the conflict, and forgiving old hurts -- even when it leads into painful places.

To move closer is no small feat. People will wound one another. But if we want a significant friendship with another person, we must take the steps into the hard places. We must run toward the pain.

Where do you find pain relationships?  How have you been hurt personally?
How do you deal with it?  Is this confrontation or retreat?
Can you discern the difference between healthy pain and masochism?


© 2006