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Chronic pain is a real thing
Did you know that an estimated 20.4% (50 million) of adults in the United States live with chronic pain (defined as pain that lasts over six months) and 8% (19.6 million) live with high-impact chronic pain (defined as persistent pain with substantial restriction of life activities lasting six months or more)? It’s no wonder so many people have become addicted to pain killers. It isn’t my place or expertise to discuss various alternative ways to lessen or eradicate pain. My focus here is a bit different.
It is wise to ask ourselves: during a normal day, how many people do I meet, speak with, text, or email who are navigating their lives in pain? We can wonder how many people who come across as mean-spirited, selfish, rude, or withdrawn behave those ways because they are living with pain.
No, I don’t think we need to ask people if they are in pain. No, I don’t think we need to give people unsolicited advice about how to deal with their pain. That’s annoying to most of us. A few years ago I was walking through a holiday show using a cane due to a back injury I sustained due to a fall. I was not in pain, just unstable and being careful. There were two women giving chair massages and one of them yelled out to me, “Come over here - we can get rid of your pain!” I looked at her, smiled, and said, “I’m not in pain.” I know she meant to be helpful, but she made a false assumption and only embarrassed herself.
What makes sense to me is this. Think kindly. Act kindly. Be a kind person. If someone is in pain, what would have the most impact on them is for someone to treat them with respect and kindness. This would go a long way to helping them feel a bit better even in the midst of their pain.
But wait - how do I know if someone is in pain? You don’t. Just treat everyone this way and know that if one out of every five people is living with chronic pain, at least one of them is bound to cross your path one way or another. Life is challenging in so many ways today. If we can make the journey a bit easier for even one other person, let’s do that, shall we?
Living in grace and ease and, sometimes, pain!