The Purpose of Pain

I’ve always heard it said not to touch someone’s dog while its eating. It may get aggressive. Well, last October I put that theory to the test. My wife and I were at her grandfather’s house in Ukraine. Seeing as ADT doesn’t have a strong presence in rural Ukraine, guard dogs are quite popular. Naturally, my wife’s grandfather also had one of these dog. I know what you’re thinking, “no way you tested that theory out on a guard dog”. Yes way.

Now there’s something I should clarify. When I said I put that theory to the test, I didn’t do so intentionally but rather out of habit. Here in the States, most dogs are harmless pets and not groomed killers. Well that day, I met a killer.

There was no cause for concern at first. I assumed he understood I was a friend of his owners and all was cool. So later in the day, I casually strolled passed him as he was eating from his bowl. He looked up and our eyes locked. Now I happen to like dogs. And I think they know that and like me back. So in the past, when a dog gave me that type of attention it typically wanted some love and attention in return. So without a whole lot of thinking, I stretched out my hand to pet the guard dog.

I think we all know what happened next. Several minutes later, I was standing pantsless inside the neighborhood nurse’s house, getting the back of my thigh bandaged up.

Even though I’ve heard it said to leave dogs alone while they’re eating, it took a painful experience to make that a core belief.

Was that pain necessary? No. Had I acted wisely I could have avoided it all together. But did that pain have a purpose? Yes.

I now don’t have the slightest desire to touch a dog while it’s eating. The dog that bit me was merciful. It only nipped me once and backed off. But what if that event never happened and I went on to touch some other much more aggressive dog that wouldn’t have let me go so easily? So in a way, I’m grateful for that experience.

Everybody wants to avoid pain and certainly no reasonable person likes inflicting pain on someone else. But is there ever a time for pain?

I once worked under a manager who was a pretty poor leader. He was often irritable and frequently made negative comments about his subordinates to their coworkers. It ended up severely affecting the moral of the group he lead. The problem was that he was very good at other aspects of his job so his boss turned a blind eye to everything else. My manager never felt the pain of disciplinary correction. As a result, he never felt the need to change.

Pain is not ideal. And in a perfect world, pain wouldn’t be necessary at all. But for now, in many cases, pain is a must.

I wanted to write this post because we often need encouragement to lean into pain in order to have have some sort of breakthrough—like letting a doctor re-brake a bone so it could heal correctly.

Is there a much needed uncomfortable conversation you’ve been putting off because you don’t want to cause someone momentary pain? Is there a child or an employee who clearly needs to experience a disciplinary action for their own good, but you’ve been pulling a Michael Scott—not wanting to address anything serious out of fear of not being liked by someone?

This is in noway a case for hurting people just for hurting sake—if you got that out of this post, you’ve read it completely wrong. Rather, this is a case for loving people enough to lay down your desire to be liked and truly helping people—even if it means causing some pain.

Is that too radical or is it a long overdue message everyone needs to hear? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, so please feel free to leave a comment.

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