The Judgement of Pain – Enough Already!

They’re dropping like flies. The daily bombardment of death and destruction as the bombs render flesh and landscape into unrecognizable rubble is too much to bear and the drone operators are leaving the job behind to retain their sanity. The intimate, up-close view brings the carnage into reality, even when the one operating the drone is safely occupying a padded chair in a cubicle back in the U.S.

And compounding the anguish?

Many of these pilots are shamed for their feelings, since they are not “real” soldiers and their bodies are not facing physical harm. Their healthy-looking bodies belie their broken minds.

And yes, if you had to put human suffering on a continuum, being physically present in a war zone would certainly seem to be worse than viewing it through a television screen.

But here’s the important part.

We don’t have to put pain on a continuum.

We don’t have to adjudicate and rank hardships.

Better or worse is not only relative, it’s inconsequential.

All that matters for that person is how they feel.

And that they receive compassion, support and encouragement (from themselves and others) to feel better.

Because when we judge suffering, we only add to it.


I read a Twitter exchange the other day between two people who had stumbled across my piece on The Huffington Post about PTSD after divorce:

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photo 1-1I know nothing about these two people and what they have endured. I did not attempt to engage them in conversation. But the exchange made me sad. Not for me, but for the many people who find my site by entering in some combination of “PTSD” and “divorce” into their search engine. Those people are in real pain and they are looking for real validation that their feelings are okay. And probably hope that they will again be okay.

And by telling them that they are not allowed to feel that way, all it does is add shame to the mix. Because if they are not “supposed” to feel that way, then something must be wrong with them.

The first step to resolving suffering is to accept it.

Only then can you begin to address it.


I have to be careful myself with judging pain. Every day, I deal with teenagers who are inconsolable because of some issue that, from my adult perspective, seems petty.

Because they are not seeing it from an adult perspective.

They can’t.

All they know is that based upon what they have experienced, this situation hurts.

And my job is to listen, acknowledge the distress and help them move beyond it.


The takeaways –

  • It doesn’t matter where someone’s experience falls on the continuum of human suffering. All that matters is where it falls on his or her personal continuum.
  • Just because someone’s situation was worse, doesn’t mean their pain was. Don’t assume.
  • When we judge pain, we are saying that we understand their pain. And we can’t. Because we haven’t lived his or her life.
  • Judgement does not alleviate pain; it compounds it. Acknowledgement and compassion are the first steps to ease the suffering.
  • By focusing on the similarities in the responses rather than fixating on the differences that caused the pain, together we can learn how to heal.

And, just so you know, the response was not accepted on the Huffington piece because comments are closed due to the age of the article, not because of any censorship of alternative viewpoints. It’s always interesting how we all make assumptions based upon our beliefs and experiences. Myself included.

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