When is Pain Good?

Reading Level: Impassioned

In the physical health world, the phrase “No pain, no gain,” is quite familiar. When it comes to emotional health in relationships and boundary setting, “No pain, no gain” is also an applicable phrase.

People who repeatedly allow themselves to be hurt or harmed by others, physically or emotionally, have difficulty setting boundaries. They bring a continual flow of destruction into their lives due to not setting boundaries, or not making clear what is acceptable and what is not acceptable behavior mainly due to a fear of the other person’s response. They fear the other person’s anger or they even fear hurting the other person’s feelings. Often, the boundaryless person fears hurting the other person because of an “over-identification with loss.” He hasn’t dealt with his own personal losses, especially those caused by the harmful relationship, so he has an unrealistic, over-emotional response to the thought of hurting the other person. It is a tragic thing to see destruction rule throughout a person’s whole life when restoration and abundance is attainable-all because he or she fears boundary setting will hurt the other person’s feelings. In such cases, pain is a good thing!

First, realize that it is possible to hurt someone’s feelings by “doing what needs to be done” and being responsible with your gift of life.

Those who follow this blog know that I frequently refer to the Boundaries book by Cloud and Townsend when discussing relationship issues of this type. You do what you need to do though it may hurt the other person’s feelings. This is not a matter of being inconsiderate. You think through and evaluate how the boundary will likely hurt the other person’s feelings; that’s being empathetic and “taking into account” the other person’s feelings. But you still set the boundaries to stop the harm to your life; otherwise, you are being irresponsible to the gift of your own life. The other person will likely insult you, saying that you are cruel or unforgiving. To purposely hurt someone’s feelings without giving any consideration to the fact that the person will hurt would be wrong (Keep in mind this is exactly what the other person is doing to you when violating your boundaries.), but so is not setting the boundaries necessary so that you can fulfill your God-given destiny with the precious gift of your own life!

In boundary setting, we must recognize the clear difference between hurt and harm.

Here is the most wonderfully wise example provided by Cloud and Townsend, pp. 93-94, of the difference between hurt and harm. When a dentist drilled into your tooth to remove a cavity, did it hurt you? Yes. Did he harm you? No, he improved your health and life. Hurt and harm are different. Did the sugar that gave you the cavity hurt? No, it was enjoyable. Did the sugar harm you? Yes. Things [such as boundary setting] can hurt a person but not harm them. It can even be good for the person. On the other hand, things that feel good can be very harmful. (1)

In Scripture, Jesus refers to this as the broad and narrow gate to life principle. The broad gate is the easiest one to go through but it is always the path to sure destruction. You do not avoid setting boundaries because someone responds with hurt or anger. Setting boundaries is crucial to living a purpose-filled life.

No one likes to be made aware of their faults, but a wise person, a loving person learns from it.

Proverbs of the wise refer to this, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful (Pr. 27:6).” A friend will “wound” a person he or she loves or cares about when it is necessary for healing and restoration-just like the dentist. On the opposite side, the harmful person pretending that the pleasantness–the easier route of allowing him or her to violate the boundaries of your life-should continue is just like deceitful kisses of an enemy-seemingly pleasant but truly hiding the destructive purposes and results of the actions. God also urges that we “speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).” For you to continue to allow the harm, to not to set boundaries and restore a daily, progressive pattern of wellness to your life is to not speak the truth, to not act in love. Avoiding the truth of the situation is possibly just as deceitful to yourself as the other person’s actions-as those “kisses of an enemy” are toward you.

Like a good dentist removing a cavity or a quality surgeon removing a cancer, pain can be a positive thing when it is a temporary step to a restored life!

Yes, pain can be good when it is a step in the process of your restoration. Keep in mind the temporary pain you cause the other person or yourself in the process is minute in contrast to the never-ending pain of a destructive, boundaryless life. I’m going to end with this quote from p. 95, “We need to evaluate the pain our confrontation causes other people. We need to see how this hurt is helpful to others and sometimes the best thing we can do for them and the relationship. We need to evaluate the pain in a positive light.” (1)

(1) Boundaries: When to Say, “Yes,” When to Say, “No,” to Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. ISBN # is 0-310-24745-4.

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2 Responses to “When is Pain Good?”

  1. Doreen Says:

    I would like to thank you for this teaching tool. I have recently (24hrs) gotten out of a dead, destructive relationship. I did not like how I felt or acted with the person. We both have healing to do. Anyway, this lesson or reflection is just what I needed to hear because the lack of boundaries (on my part) has caused me to be angry, depressed, jealous, a co-dependent of poor behavior (and character).

    God is wonderful. I am thankful that he sends people and materials like this for people to heal and learn from. He has spoken to me about this area of my life. Again, I do thank you very much for such a wonderful site. It is a blessing!

  2. R.H. Says:

    Doreen, I so appreciate the kind words! Glad that the post met a vital need. I trust the ideas will continue to bring strength and healing to your life! ReceiveHealing.com

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