Can you bear weight? Can you stand? These seem to be the questions that I have been getting recently. They have to do with my foot, and my recovery. For the longest time, I couldn’t stand to bear weight on it, and I couldn’t bear standing for any length of time. And, in the midst of that, I realized that these two words act to modify each other. They also can define, alone, what the question is, but they also seem to be exchangeable when someone is recovering.
Can you bear it? Can you stand it? These are common questions when someone is in a great deal of pain. Though, I wonder. What would people do if the questioned answered no. No. I cannot stand this pain any longer. No I cannot bear it any more. Don’t give me any more pain, I can’t take it. As if pain was a gift or a prize or a token to be given and received. Clearly, if you are able to talk to them, they are coping with the pain, on some level.
I have begun to think that we ask these questions so that we can relieve ourselves of any requirement or obligation to help the individual with their pain. We are required to ask the questions because it seems like the thing to do in polite company, but somewhere along the way, we’ve forgotten the reason that we ask.
What is the next step in the process when someone tells you that yes, they are hurting?
Oh, I’m sorry.
Oh, I’ll pray for you.
Oh, you’re young, you’ll get over it.
Oh, I’ve hurt worse before.
Oh, you’ll heal.
What about something that gives a bit more grace? Like: I’m am sorry your hurting. That must be frustrating, and I want you to know that you are allowed to not have to smile through it.
When I worked in the VA Hospital, I cannot tell you the number of people who I came in and visited who said they were “fine” when I came to see them. “Fine” when they clearly were not fine at all. When they had just had their chests sliced open. When they had just received distressing news. When they had just been told that their lives would never be the same.
That’s not “fine.” That’s coping. That’s standing the pain. That’s bearing the distress in the midst of difficulty. That’s not “fine.”
But, still, we are supposed to smile and say we’re ok. One of the first things that I always did, when I got a “fine,” was to say that they were allowed to be “not fine.” That it didn’t mean they weren’t strong, that it didn’t mean they were not going to get better. It only meant they were allowed to be honest. If only with someone who was a stranger, but also there to pray and give what little comfort I could provide.
I hope that we’re able to give each other the space to hurt, and listen to our bodies. It’s the only way we can truly heal, instead of continually covering the sores. Those will just fester. If we let our scars show, we see the humanness in each other. And through that, we can see the image of God in those around us.