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Painful Thoughts


Guys, let me be honest with you: my attitude has been terrible today, pretty much from the moment I woke up until the moment I started writing this blog post. I’ve been thinking all day about what I could possibly write about. What encouraging, inspiring, earth- shattering words do I have to share when I can’t even seem to get my own head in the right mindset? So I started reading other blogs, hoping for encouragement and a ray of inspiration to magically hit me.

One of the blogs I read was written by a good friend of mine who was diagnosed with Lupus earlier this year. She shares her struggles and how she’s learning to cope with the emotional and physical pain that have inevitably appeared in her journey. This morning I was struck by one particular sentence in her most recent post: “Pain has another, ugly affect on me as well. It sometimes makes me callous.”

She goes on to say,

“Ironic, considering most people would say dealing with pain should make you more empathetic of others. Yet I often have to check myself, because when I ache…I have little patience for other people’s problems.”

Talk about a slam in the gut. This post hit a little too close to home for me. I’ve been struggling with keeping a good attitude about several subjects in my life recently, and wouldn’t you know that instead of processing how I felt like a mature adult, I started to feel sorry for myself. Suddenly no one else in the world had bigger problems than me (HA.). Today, I let this negative thought process affect my daily thoughts and response to people. I was impatient when I drove places, mean-mugged pretty much every person that walked by me, and was flat-out rude to my sisters when we talked about exchanging Christmas gifts this year (to which one of my sisters politely responded, “Amy your attitude is terrible. Go take a nap.” Leave it to a sibling to sugar-coat the truth.)

This humbling realization goes beyond just today. Sometimes, when everything is going well and I feel great, I have zero problem giving patience and grace to people. They can talk about issues they’re struggling with and I am just an over-flowing bucket of encouragement. But when I’M struggling, I don’t want to be empathetic. Like when a friend talks about relationship struggles, once in a while I nod in apparent sympathy while inwardly I’m thinking, “yeah but he buys you dinner and takes out the trash for you, so I don’t wanna hear it.” Or when someone talks about being too uncomfortable to workout and I immediately want to respond with something like, “HELLO I HAVE ONE LEG JUST DO IT.”

Do I think tough love is sometimes helpful, if not necessary? Yes. But if it’s coming from a state of selfishness and callousness because I’m too wrapped up in my own problems to care, maybe it’s not the best place to start. Who am I to qualify the pain of others in comparison to my own? Just because someone else’s struggle looks different than mine doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be heard, encouraged, and loved on. The moment I start deciding what stories deserve the most recognition is the moment I’ve made myself a god of my own world. And that, my friends, is a terrible world in which to live.

I’m so far from perfect it’s not even funny. Today was a very humbling reminder of that. I’ve had to take a step back and witness how frail and flawed am. To be frank, this post is a bit embarrassing to reveal to the Internet world, but I’m not about making people think I’ve got my life together and walk around in a world of sunshine and rainbows. That’s not my reality all the time, and I doubt it is for most of humanity. Please don’t misunderstand me, I don't think that feeling upset or struggling with some type of pain means that I did something wrong. I’m just realizing how important it is to maintain an awareness of how my own pain affects how I react to the pain of others.

So what am I choosing to do right now, in this moment? For starters, pray and thank God that He’s got more grace for me than I’ve ever had for anyone else. I also recognize that the world will go on, despite my bad attitude today. Instead of wallowing in a cycle of regret and self-pity, I can move on; I don’t even have to wait for tomorrow to experience an attitude shift.

Praise God for grace. And hallelujah for second (and third, and a million) chances to try again. And thank goodness for friends who aren't afraid to be honest about their struggles - they help me face my own.