No Pain No Gain May Be an Exaggeration But...
Pain Is The Fastest Way to Growth
In Star Trek V, The Undiscovered Country, Spock’s long lost brother, who had a unique ability to heal people of their personal traumas, tried to use his ability on Kirk. But Kirk refused, saying “I need my pain.” He believed that removing his personal trauma over decisions he had to make as captain would eliminate his ability to act as an effective leader. We are told by brain researchers that the human brain has a negative bias towards being focused on pain and threatening events. Supposedly this gives us survival advantages in nature – if you remember vividly where the tiger lives and the screams of your buddy when he was devoured by it last weekend, you’re more likely to avoid being devoured yourself.
We’ve carried this analogy on over into the modern world to such an extent that all sorts of anxiety disorders and neuroses have sprouted up in the general population. We fear things that really don’t pose us much risk or harm, and suppressing the fear leads to stress. In response to this, the market is flooded with books, audio programs, Internet based workshops etc. on how to regain a sense of peace and tranquility in your life.
But do you really need your pain? People tend to accomplish the most when they feel threatened or when facing an unreasonable deadline. When things are easy and no one is judging us, we tend to get fat and lazy and not do much of significance with our lives. So maybe Kirk was right. Would we know much about politicians running for office for instance if they didn’t spend their entire campaigns ridiculing each other to the point that defending their views helped to define them for us, as we watched from the sidelines?
Pain is good, in a sense, when it drives us to change or to accomplish things we’d otherwise leave undone. If this is the case, why don’t we go out and deliberately make our lives more painful? Some people actually do this. Military personnel who decide to try out for the special forces are a good example. They put themselves through excruciating physical and mental trials all to have a chance to be part of a highly regarded, elite military unit. Entrepreneurs also work, sometimes for decades, in small businesses on the verge of collapse, (instead of taking a mind-numbingly boring yet good paying real job), in the hopes that one day their idea will make it big.
If you really want to initiate rapid growth in your life, the best approach may be to increase your tolerance for pain. This does not necessarily involve just physical challenges, unless you want to be a professional athlete, but mental, emotional and spiritual challenges as well. It all depends on what you actually want to accomplish. If you want to be closer to God, maybe living the austere life of a monk for a year will do it for you. If you want to develop an easier way to pick up women, or find suitable men to date, maybe the pain threshold you need to raise is to put yourself in more and more awkward social situations, so you can develop an ability to handle rejection without being phased by it emotionally.
We often blame God for allowing suffering and pain to happen in the world when tragedy strikes. But allowing for pain may be the greatest gift God has ever given us. If you can see beyond the temporary existence of physical life and believe in some way it may be eternal with permanent consequences, then pain can be a rapid-fire educator that makes us better people than we ever could become without it.
If you have a choice between an easy life and one that involves some struggle therefore, choose the one that challenges you. Such a life would likely be much more fulfilling than you ever thought possible from the easy confines of your recliner, with potato chip bag in hand, eyes glazed over, while engrossed in the mind-numbingly wasteful habit of watching boob-tube reruns of The Simpsons. They're not even a real, fake, TV family. They're just a cartoon! Get out there and start a million-dollar making business, or get a date with that Scarlett Johansson look-alike at the local coffee shop instead. Sure, she's probably going to shoot you down, but that's better than watching another repeat of fake TV Bart getting into trouble at fake cartoon school again, isn't it?