The other day I walked by an interesting sight. Years before, a tree had been planted next to a chain-link fence. Now 50 or 60 years later, the tree and the fence remained; however, the tree had grown through the links on the fence, forming an interesting pattern on the bark.
When the soft bark met up against the metal links, it must have chaffed the tender flesh of the tree. But as the tree continued to grow, the ever-present metal links began to tear through the trunk. Eventually, the tree rubbed against the fence with such force that it ripped its flesh in the process and ensured permanent scars, before passing through to the other side. The tree survived, forever changed and weakened, though, for its ordeal.
In some ways, I decided, I’ve been like that tree. When I’ve met immobile barriers, I asserted my will to move those barriers. Dummy. I got all cut up. I carry scars, some on the surface, others inside.
It’s best to not mimic the tree when it means getting entangled to the point of causing yourself a slow strangulation.
Maybe it’s better to be an oyster. When a small irritant gets trapped into an oyster’s shell, the animal secretes a substance called nacre to wrap a smooth layer around the intruder to reduce irritation. Over time, that oyster’s response to the irritant creates a pearl.
In some ways, fewer than I’d like, I’ve been like an oyster in that I’ve shared small “pearls of wisdom” I’ve learned along my path of life. If you take the lessons you’ve learned and share them with others, your pain becomes a pearl for someone else. Heck, if you’re a parent, you know that most of your pearls come from your own mistakes!
The best thing I can do with the pain and irritants that I come across today is to be aware of their potential to cause me harm. As I get older, I’ve established a low tolerance for people and events that cause me more trouble than they are worth. If I see people and situations as potentially dangerous, I don’t run into them face first. And if matters are unavoidable, I slow myself from getting sucked in.
It’s not selfish to care for myself, to resist needless drama and to seek more danger-free environs. So if not offering yourself up as a doormat sounds selfish, well, get over that thought.
Pain is universal, irritants are abundant. Sometimes we humans–having the capacity to think, feel and learn from our mistakes–return to places of pain out of habit, even when to do so creates a helplessness and hopelessness within ourselves.
Pain is universal, irritants are abundant. But you have options. How do you deal with the pain and irritants in your life? Do you run into them face first? Do you use them to help others? And have you learned to side-step avoidable situations that can cause you needless suffering?