Listenings: Universalizing Our Pain

Nouwen’s second step on the journey from sorrow to joy is to universalize our pain.

Unless we do this, our pains will become our fixations.

Have you ever met a person who immediately begins to talk about their sufferings, losses, struggles, etc.?  We feel like we’re being sucked into a psychological black hole.  And in a real sense, we are.  We are in the presence of a person who has become fixated on their pain.

Instead, Nouwen notes (pp. 44-46) we must allow our sufferings to create solidarity with the larger sufferings of others.  In other words, we must deal with our sufferings in ways that give birth to compassion—which literally means “to feel with.”

We can only “feel with” another if we have first acknowledged our pain (last week’s post), but then moved on to use it as a window through which to allow the Holy Spirit to make us sensitive and responsive to the sufferings of others.

Universalizing our pain does not mean telling everyone about it wherever we go; it means using our pains to connect with the pains of the world which lie beyond our particular experiences.

The journey from sorrow to joy is moving into the world with bandages in our hands, not magnets.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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