“Pain teaches so we give it freely, pleasure teaches nothing so it must be earned”
– Peter V Brett
This is one of my favourite quotes, it is from a novel titled “The Warded Man”. (Thank you for the suggestion, Ryan.) The quote is interesting and elicits a variety of different reactions, from total agreement to complete disdain.
Pain. Why should we experience pain freely? Pain is harmful physically, emotionally, and mentally shouldn’t I avoid pain?
That attitude towards pain is sensible, we are designed to survive and the avoidance of pain will likely lead to prolonged life. Our everyday dangers have shifted, we are longer required to fight and hunt for every morsel of food, struggle to find shelter or be prepared to brave the elements. Historically pain would have helped to guide us, shown us our errors and highlighted dangers to avoid. Our life and death struggle has (thankfully) been removed and as a result, we have a greater ability to avoid pain. Ironically, it is more necessary than ever to allow ourselves to experience it. Distancing ourselves from it is merely turning a blind eye to the lessons we can learn. Although our everyday dangers have shifted the need to fail, experience pain and grow is as important as always.
There is a beautiful quote, from Glennon Doyle and it reads:
“Never remove them, (love and pain) because they are the only things we grow from.”
This holds true across all areas of life. A child tries to walk and falls, the pain that she receives teaches her where to step next time. Exercise causes temporary pain resulting in positive physical adaptations. A bad break up with a lover teaches independence and that love and happiness are internal qualities. I love my partner deeply, she is my world and I would take every ounce of pain in her life, but that would be selfish and unfair. I would be cheating her of the opportunity to grow and become a better version of herself.
Pain is important, I know this and understand it but that doesn’t make it any easier to handle. Below is a picture of my last fight. I lost and it hurt, it hurt physically, mentally and emotionally. Weeks later, after the cuts and bruises had healed I would burst out in tears while driving and I wouldn’t want it any other way. We need pain, we need failure and we need suffering because it allows us to grow. I am a better person and fighter because of the experience. My growth would not have been possible without the uncomfortable lesson pain taught me.
Pleasure. As tumultuous as our relationship is with pain, pleasure is certainly worse. We deprive ourselves of it, enjoy it in excess and alternate between bliss and guilt.
Hunter S Thompson once said:
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
I agree, to arrive pristinely is a crime. We should enter our graves rich in soul, experience, laughter, and love. Pleasure is an emotion as important as any we are capable of experiencing, it is an aspect of play which is absolutely necessary for development at all stages of life. However it must be earned, pleasure is a privilege. To recklessly grant ourselves pleasure, unchecked against our actions is a dangerous habit.
How we earn our pleasure immensely importance and has a direct impact on our experience. We must earn it through effort and attitude, by applying ourselves to the task with all of our resources and in a positive state of mind. In doing so we earn the right to savour the pleasure afterward while granting ourselves permission to enjoy the present moment. To feel deserving and be rewarded is a wonderful feeling that should not be taken lightly. I am guilty of discrediting my successes and turning my attention immediately to what is next, never allowing myself the opportunity to enjoy the pleasure I have earned. This is the result of focusing on the outcome, which is irrelevant and ultimately out of our control. Our focus must shift to how we approach each challenge and what sort of effort we put forth, by holding ourselves accountable in these two areas we earn our pleasure.
If we agree to embrace the lessons that pain brings and earn our pleasure though attitude and effort we will see amazing growth. We will approach our problems with a positive outlook, learn quickly from our mistakes and find joy in the process. We will live life more deeply which should always be the ultimate goal.