Pain, Suffering, and American Culture

I was talking with a friend yesterday about what it takes to be a self aware human being in America today.  I travel quite a bit internationally, and I consider myself a pretty self aware person, but lately I’ve been challenged on how self aware I really am.

I’ve been working to see others as valuable members of the human condition, but somewhere in my own world view, I feel like I miss the mark in hearing how others deal with pain, suffering, and day to day life.

My question yesterday, “Why is it so hard to see our own dark black spots in personality to reach out and truly care for others?”

His answer:

It’s painful.  

As soon as you look in the darkness of your own soul, you find places that are built in the human condition that are painful to look at.  And let’s be honest: Our entire culture is made to diminish any pain and suffering.  Just look at the local Walgreens or CVS.  

You walk in, and on the right is the make up section.  There’s a billion dollar industry to cover up the blemishes for what we see in the mirror.  Turn to the left, and you see the junk food aisle.  We want quick cover ups to keep us from feeling hunger.  We know it won’t last, but there’s another billion dollar industry that keeps us from feeling pain in our stomach.  Then you walk down the aisles in the store and you find cremes, pills, and even Dr. Sholes foot inserts.  Tell me there’s another country in the world where Dr. Sholes has a stand to elevate the suffering of walking.  Most third world countries don’t even have shoes.  

And finally you reach the back of the store where people in bright white coats guard the good stuff.  We have pills, cremes, and every imaginable pain management tool to keep us from feeling pain.  

So how in the world are you to think that anyone in their right mind, culturally, is willing or able to take a long look into their own heart and start wrestling with their own issues?

It was an important moment for me.  If I’m going to be a person on the grow, learning and listening to the world’s problems, it makes sense that I’m willing to look inside the darkness of my own heart to see where I come up short.

I can mask the pain, put on a good face, and ‘fake it till I make it;’ but without a serious moment of reflection, I ignore the parts of my own personality that may contribute to the problem in relationships.  Whether it’s my kids or my friends, I owe it to them and to myself to take off the mask and start looking at the areas of my own life that aren’t exactly the greatest.

That’s why I believe in our work on the KIVU Gap Year.  Without making this a commercial for our own work with students, I think it’s vitally important that we help young people start pulling off the masks and challenge them to see the world the way it is.  Let’s not continue ‘medicating’ our world without taking into consideration the pain and suffering going on around us.  We can help create a generation that is willing and able to be introspective enough to reach out to others and solve big problems.

And where would that gain traction?

I can’t think of one industry where people who are aware of others would find significant problems by an army of employees who were self aware enough to serve their clients.  Whether in Business, Medicine, Law, or Government; there’s a place for those who deeply care about others in order to see success come knocking at their door.

All that to say, today, I’m working to be more self aware.

So where are you?  Are you willing to take some time to realize the places in your heart that are less than what they could be?  Are you willing to see your sphere of influence and those in your networks as worthy to know the best of you?

Stay tuned.  As I uncover more methods on how we can become more aware, I’ll share them here.  Until then…here’s to being someone willing to look into the darkness existing inside our own hearts.

Let me know what you think

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