(This is the third part in a series of posts on Pain. It will greatly benefit the flow and your understanding if you have previously read the two prior posts.)
Upon unequivocally proving to myself the power of the SMILE over pain, I have earnestly desired to never forget the magnitude of this powerful lesson. I initially pondered on how I wanted to keep a constant reminder to continue smiling, at least in my heart… always. Then I realized: the “Grand Scientist” has created me with just this very opportunity! When my heart’s smile relaxes and should my spirit ever eventually “fall” again through fear of any kind, pain of some kind will slip in to guide me back to remembrance.
The sensation of “pain,” in whatever form it may present itself, once viewed as a menacing enemy, can truly be an incredible gift. I have come to view discomfort as my soul’s awareness that I have lost my balance. The pain is my inner “buzzer” on my thermostat going off “bling, bling, bling, bling, bling,” instructing me that I am “off” in some way and that to regain my inner harmony I must consciously “reach up” and bring into my heart and mind the “JOY” that I was created to experience. I have learned to do this through my pro-active smile accompanied with grateful, rejoicing thoughts. It is really so very, very simple.
The “happy button” in the brain that I had been tutoring the children in my daycare to “push” when they had experienced times of emotional and physical distress, is activated through the toggle switch of a huge smile. Bringing the outer edges of the lips up to hook on the cheek bones turns the light back on. Literally!
But, what is pain? Pain is the least understood of sensory functions, but without it, living things would be so poorly designed that they couldn’t survive. Without pain, one would never know what constituted danger, when to take defensive action, or when one’s thoughts or actions are out of alignment with one’s inherent divinity. Yet, pain is distinct from the sense of touch. If you place your finger on a hot stove, you feel the touch first and the pain appears a discernible time later… AFTER the reflex has already drawn your hand away.
There are different types of pain. Pain in the head or belly or muscles is different than pain in the skin. And each of these differs significantly from the pain of betrayal or loneliness, shame or regret. Even pain specialists find defining pain difficult. Yet, before an organism can repair itself, it must know it has been injured. In other words, the wound must hurt. Pain is an essential requirement to life. The integrity of both physical and emotional health is maintained by a balanced system relying upon the programmed-in guidance system of pain.
In religious terms, spiritual (emotional) pain is referred to as “enmity,” or the harsh voice of conscience which seeks to get our attention when we have sinned. Although sinning is viewed sinisterly, it can appropriately be understood as any action which takes one from a feeling of emotional balance and peace. Thus, “sin” brings pain.
Though I have yet to meet anyone who truly enjoys feeling pain, I have long been intrigued by the concept that few have yet been taught how to climb out of its grip. My latest four year relationship with a precious human being continually brought this issue to the fore-front. When confronted with what seemed to him like an uncomfortable feeling (low-level pain), he often refused to deal with the issue: “Do we have to talk about that now?” “Why do you have to ruin a perfectly good day by bringing up that subject?” Or, if “the subject” exposed something he did not want to acknowledge or bring out into the open, his very refusal to look at, face, and integrously deal with that uncomfortable feeling would lead to ever deeper and graver and uglier emotions as he fell head-long further into a black hole of anger, shame, and guilt. Despite his heated statements of “hating” to “go there” (feel emotional pain), what may have begun inside him as a mere flicker of apprehension often quickly nose-dived into the pits of despair and insanity.
Yet, is guilt a bad thing? Or, like the blinking “check engine light” on the car dashboard, is it a necessary tool to assist in re-gaining balance? The original emotions which led to “the fall of Adam and Eve” were shame and guilt. “Ugh! Don’t look! Don’t view me as lacking. Quick, let us hide or change the subject… let’s leave.” Now each one of us as the symbolic “Adam and Eve” existing in “the lone and dreary world,” have the opportunity to learn to use our life’s experience for its intended purpose: to finally come to realize that just because we feel something doesn’t mean it has to own us.
Indeed, mortality is the appointed time to learn how to face our feelings, to own and be the masters of THEM, as we learn the lessons they have come to teach. Eventually, when we have scaled the mountain of emotional maturity, arriving back in one’s mental “garden,” we realize that we can have continual control of our emotions and not the other way around. Our emotions can assist us to regulate our behavior as we learn to attune ourselves to intently listen to them. They become the voice of our conscience, guiding us in the way of wisdom, informing our future decisions so we become ever more emotionally mature.
Guilt and shame, anger and loneliness… indeed each emotion… is neither good nor bad. Just as pain is neither good nor bad. They are but tools assisting our life’s lessons. What do we do with them, and what do they do with us? As we learn the lessons of emotions and what to do with them, we then are set free! We are liberated from the false imprisonment of emotional insecurity. Yea, learn how to suffer, and ye need no longer suffer.
The summer I turned seventeen, I attended an out of state music camp. During that week, I visited with my uncle and was, through him, introduced to a song that profoundly touched my soul and that I promptly learned and sang over the next many years to myriad audiences. The point of view of the song was that of a leper in the time of Jesus who hears him come into the vicinity where he (the leper) lived and, feeling the great shame of his condition, wondered why his visitor would seek such an unbecoming place to frequent. With self-loathing, yet, through ever-increasing faith, he and many others were healed from their leprosy, blindness, and lame conditions.
Leprosy is a common theme amongst New Testament scriptures, and yet most of us have probably never engaged with one termed a “leper” today. Or, have we? One feature of scriptural leprosy is its lack of subtlety. If you had it, everyone knew it. The victim himself was required to announce in a loud voice to everyone, “Unclean, unclean.”
Another feature of leprosy, was the progressive loss of feeling in the affected parts of the body. As it progressed, the disease reached the point that it so seriously affected the nerves that there was no longer any feeling in the extremities. No feeling means no pain, right? No pain means no suffering, right? No. This is not the case. Pain plays a very beneficial role in our welfare. Again, pain informs us of danger, when something is out of balance.
I recently had a dear friend who, lacking sensation in his feet, looked down one day and saw blood all over the ground, realizing that he had badly damaged his foot, yet having no awareness of when or how. Today, this loss of feeling is a very serious problem for someone with diabetic neuropathy, as it was in former times with leprosy.
Today, leprosy is also known as Hansen’s disease, named after a doctor in the 1800s who studied the affliction and discovered that leprosy is actually a bacterial infection. Initially without symptoms, leprosy might take 5 to 20 years to progress to the stage where it is discernable. Symptoms that develop include granulomas of the nerves, respiratory tract, skin, and eyes. This may result in a lack of ability to feel pain and thus loss of parts of the extremities due to repeated injuries or infection due to unnoticed wounds.
Researchers used to think that leprosy caused the extremities of those afflicted to rot off. It is now known that because of the poor living conditions of the leper colonies combined with the afflicted nerves disallowing sensation, that the fingers and toes would often be nibbled by rats who would come in at night while they were asleep. Because they were numb and felt no pain, they had no idea what was happening to them, except to find that over time, they had lost their extremities.
Today we rarely see an actual case of leprosy. Rarely do rats come and nibble one’s fingers and toes while we sleep. But there is a far more insidious disease that is very much with us. Many are losing their vital spiritual organs, their precious opportunity to feel deeply and purely. The rats of dysfunction are nibbling away at the hardened hearts of those in our society who suffer from spiritual leprosy. Yet, unaware and asleep to the gravity of the situation, they don’t even feel what is happening. Ironically, those with spiritual leprosy are not required to announce their arrival with “unclean, unclean” and be socially ostracized or relegated to restricted areas. Instead, often today, those with “spiritual leprosy” in society are the most elevated, and honored, and are esteemed with deep respect, at least in surface relationships. Because of their learned counterfeit behaviors which set them up for leadership positions within families, businesses, and politics, their “passed feeling” state gets purposely ignored.
Today, those who have learned to not feel or to project their feelings onto another are given other labels besides “leprosy.” Today, in fact, there is an entire manual, routinely up-graded, with varying degrees and characteristics of “spiritual leprosy.” Depending upon one’s learned behavior and the habits of mind that have developed since childhood, one might be termed “narcissist,” “sociopath,” suffering from “borderline personality disorder,” or several other over-lapping distinctions all having to do with one’s inability to properly feel, own, deal with, and master one’s emotions.
At the root of each of these designations is the trauma of self-loathing. Somewhere in one’s fragile foundational period of early childhood, the precious sense of Trust was severed and in its place were implanted behaviors and counterfeit ways of dealing with one’s and other’s feelings.
Each one with spiritual leprosy learned that to “feel bad” was something to be ashamed of, and, as in the story of “Adam and Eve,” that bad feeling meant unworthiness and separation. Without learning how to properly process and master the “bad feeling,” one often learned to turn off or smash the alarm, projecting the reason for one’s inner blaring siren onto another, or in some way leave the garden of good feeling and connection.
One common response to spiritual pain is to just try to ignore it and hope it will go away. Stuffing it in a corner in the deepest recesses of the mind, we tell it to “Shut up!… or else!” After repeated dealings with “bad feeling” in this way, one’s sub-conscious mind catches on and quickly deals as programmed with “bad feeling,” sometimes even before the conscious mind is aware of it. Over time, the volume of feeling is turned progressively lower until it is finally muted and we become, literally, “passed feeling.” Like taking the “anti-biotic” and killing off the “good” as well as the “bad” bacteria, when one is “passed feeling” they become numb to ALL feeling, the good and the bad. Thus, though surface relationships might appear functional and the sufferer might seem like an “honorable man or woman” of the world, to their intimate partners, they wreak havoc and leave devastation in the wake of their interactions.
By ignoring the warning voice of conscience and continuing in the thoughts and actions that warranted the enmity, spiritual leprosy slowly destroys us over time. Like the leper’s rats, it slowly eats away at us and the longer we continue turning a deaf ear to its alarm, we lose more and more feeling. It used to be when we would do wrong, we would be pricked in our heart. The first time you ignore the warning signal and commit an act harmful to your long-term good (sin), your conscience (enmity) bothers you, but then as you go deeper into sin, you become numb to it. You get further and further desensitized, even as you harm yourself and others, even as you’re wounded, even as you’re infected; you don’t even realize it.
As we were created FOR *JOY,* this inability to regulate our emotions and choose to feel GOOD negates the very reason for our existence.
Or we may simply try to relieve the symptoms without addressing the root cause. For example, my former husband had programmed himself throughout his life to react to “bad feeling” by grabbing his shoes and heading out for vigorous exercise, or by going to the piano and drowning his sorrow in a counter energy. These were two of his chosen “addictions.” Like knee-jerk reaching for the aspirin for a physical headache, by extinguishing the symptom without addressing the cause, the flow of adrenaline or cortisol drowned out his sorrows with his chosen brain elixir. For a time. Yet, without learning life’s prescribed lessons, the emotional relational “pop quizzes” would come with greater regularity and more significant consequences to his emotional health.
Some choose to get “passed feeling” by getting drunk on alcohol or high on drugs; they try to escape, to run away. Many other types of diversions include: sex, pornography, shopping, gossip, video games, self-cutting… any of myriad behaviors that over time become accepted ways of dealing with “bad feeling” and replacing them with a temporary hit such as “dopamine.” But none of these deal with the root of the issue and just mask the pain further. With repeated attacks and without learning the lessons of emotions, the pain may become so intense in times of non-stuffing that one contemplates or commits suicide.
Today, many spiritual lepers self-soothe their “bad feeling” by plugging in the pacifier of making excuses. They hold pity parties. “Poor me! My mom treated me bad, so I could never grow up to become an emotionally mature adult. Poor me! It’s all her fault!” OR, “I never had any problems [in surface relationships] before YOU came into my life. YOU are the reason for my pain and trauma! My anger is all because of YOU!” Ya-da, ya-da, ya-da. Yes, this common learned behavior that fuels justification to continue one’s addictions is projecting the blame upon others. Pity parties give a temporary feeling of comfort, yet ensnare one to ever deepening levels. They are a learned behavior to placate one’s self, a form of “mental masturbation,” a way of telling one’s self that his behaviors are acceptable. Yet, one must defeat the addiction of indulging in self-pity by seeing it for what it is… an excuse, a trap-door. One’s enemy! Self-pity is an enabler and prevents you from reaching your full potential.
Today, society is afflicted with a horrible spiritual leprosy that is eating away at the very fabric of our society.
Whereas scriptural accounts of lepers usually describe the outcasts who live in isolation from society and community, there was one scriptural leper in a very different category: Naaman. (2 Kings 5) Naaman was a highly respected man and tremendous political leader. When given hope for his condition, Naaman took with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten complete changes of clothes to pay for the healing. In today’s value, Naaman took with him in silver, gold, and clothing, a total of $3,126,900.00 to pay for being healed of leprosy.
According to the Biblical account, when the king of Israel read the letter and heard about the financial gift available to pay for the healing, he was shocked. “Does the King of Syria think I am God,” he shouted. “Is he doing this to start a fight?” He pondered what seemed to him to be a very dangerous situation. The prophet Elisha, hearing what was happening, sent a message to the king of Israel. “Send the commander to me. He will know that there is a prophet in Israel.”
When Naaman arrived with his gift, he felt rebuffed. Instead of a gracious reception, there was no recognition at all except a messenger sent from the prophet telling him to go dip himself seven times in the Jordan River.
Furious by such treatment, he went away indignant. Yet, his servants offered, “Sir, if he had told you to do something great, you would have done it. He has told you to do something simple, go wash in the river and you will be clean. If you would have made the effort to do something great, shouldn’t you at least try the simple task?”
Eventually, the humility and integrity of the commander is revealed by his willingness to listen and to follow through with the task. He did go the Jordan River and dip himself seven times. The leprosy was gone and his skin became that of a new born.
When the one known as Jesus offered his version of healing from emotional leprosy, he was spurned by most. Today, I offer the same prescription. It is easy, yet requires humility and integrity. To “wash in the Jordan River seven times” was in Jesus’ time phrased as “come unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” Today, healing from spiritual leprosy (narcissism, borderline personality disorder, or any other emotional/ spiritual disease) is the same. Costing not millions of dollars, but the same broken heart and contrite spirit.
Instead of the easiness of the way, society is worshipping idols, placing into positions of leadership those who are the most gravely stricken with spiritual leprosy… who refuse to look at, own, and take responsibility for healing… yes thoroughly healing… from their devastating disease. Though many sense the growing epidemic of this societal burden that threatens rampant annihilation, we have instead looked to the very ones who have betrayed us and themselves in the first place.
Mortality is the chapter within man’s experience where the curriculum is intended to take one from an “animal” nature into a “spiritual” nature. The charted course is through the land mines of emotions. In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul uses the word “natural” to refer to someone still in his original (animalistic/ sinful) state. Natural men are those who are occupied with the things of this material world and are led by instinct (fight or flight) rather than by the Spirit of peaceful “rejoicing with exceeding gladness.” (See Matthew 5:12)
Yet, the words of Christ (as found in Matthew 5-7) change the natural man into a spiritual one. When a person sincerely applies this balm, he exchanges his spiritual leprosy for wholeness. “As in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).
Matthew 10: 7 And as ye go, ye shall preach , saying, The kingdom of heaven is now at hand and the sword of truth hangeth over this people, and except they repent, they shall in no wise enter into this kingdom. And this kingdom is within the hearts of the people, but their hearts are sick and diseased with the leprosy of false doctrine they have received from their leaders; and they walk as the lame and are dead to all things that are righteous and good; and in this way the angels of the devil have power over them.
8 Behold, I am the way, the truth and the light, even those things which I have given unto you shall heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead and cast out devils. And these things ye shall do to their souls in similitude of what I have done unto their bodies. Be not ye like those who make the people sick; for their leaders charge a price for that with which they poison the people. Ye have freely received; therefore, freely give.
Well was it written about those who come to the light of real truth, and then turn from it in search for something else, or turn back to those relationships and activities they have left (“as a dog to his vomit”). No matter how good and kind my former husband might have seemed, before he came to me, he had an “unclean spirit.” Gradually, as he opened his heart to becoming more and more a “Gentle man” and opening his eyes to his egoic pride and emotional immaturity, he was set free. But he could not leave the value of the world to maintain the real truth that had set him free. And now wandering through “dry places, seeking rest,” he will not find it anywhere else. Although I can only hope the best for him, his last state will be worse than the first.
Matthew 12: 36 “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.”
37 He that loveth father or mother more than that which I have given him is not worthy of the peace I offer. Even so, the father and the mother have been charged with the care of the son and daughter. But if the son or daughter bringeth no joy to them, why then should they be brought down to hell with their children? Behold, he that loveth son or daughter more than that which I have given him, also is not worthy of this peace.
38 Behold, the cross which I bear for the world is that I have no family; for they who do the will of my Father in heaven are my father, my mother, my brother, sister, son and daughter. For these bring the peace to me that I seek. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of the same peace I receiveth from the Father.
39 Yea, he that findeth his life in the things of this world shall lose it to these things and shall have no peace. But he that loseth his life in those things which I have given them of the Father shall find this peace of which I speak.
Like Naaman, although many would do something extremely difficult and pay any price for true healing, the prescription is truly simple. Instead, most today have looked to spiritually blind family members, to friends, to carnal pursuits, to medication of some kind or another, to education, to science, to religion, to politicians, to experts and organizations Outside of their deepest and purest holy Selves. Yet, they have each failed us.
Rather than walking through dry places, seeking rest, and finding none, won’t you go to the river and be healed? “The Jordan River” is allegoric for the living waters of the hidden Truth of Who You Are lying deeply buried under the cysts and infections of emotional pain. Dipping “seven times” represents cleansing each of the seven vices/ traps of one’s animalistic nature until your entire being is holy and sparkling clean, redeemed from the fall of being immersed within the muck and crap and infection located within one’s “pity pot.”
Rather than adopting the call of “unclean, unclean” for all one’s days upon becoming smitten with spiritual leprosy, it is possible, and hoped that, mortals reconcile (make an atonement) their actions with their conscience. All one would need to do is to study and sincerely and correctly apply the teachings of Matthew 5-7 (the “Sermon on the Mount” or the “Stairway to Heaven”). I will continue to expound upon these jewels and assist the sincere reader to apply these saving principles in their life.
Again, before an organism can repair itself, it must know it has been injured. In other words, the wound must hurt. Have you, dear reader ever felt grief, shame, loneliness, anger? Has it hurt? Are you freed from all emotional pain now? Have you self-actualized and become the Divine and Holy Being that you were created to BE? Or, have you merely turned off your pain sensor and become “passed feeling?”
Do you distract yourself when pain attempts to surface and asks to be looked at? When another comes to you, in a moment of their distress, do you become his unknowing mortal enemy by placating him? Instead of assisting him to apply the words of Christ and take responsibility for his emotional immaturity and his pain’s opportunity to look at and become emotionally whole… do you instead stroke his animalistic nature and pacify him even more?
No! I will not participate. When one, my former husband for example, in sincerity comes to me and desires to see his blind spots, become the emotionally mature “Gentle man” that he was created to be, I will gladly show him his “shit” and gratefully assist his healing. Yet, the balm of Truth can only be applied by one who is and maintains sincerity. To assist or interact with one who chooses to “wallow in the mire” of despair and attempt to take me with him is not an option in my book. The greatest gift we can offer an insincere emotionally immature spiritual leper, is to refuse to participate, to walk away and leave them on their pity pot alone; until they have flushed, cleaned, and again become sincerely desirous of complete emotional healing.
Again, emotional healing requires a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Again, the words of Christ (see Matthew 5: 1-12 especially) is the Jordan River in which one must dip seven times.
Some of the symptoms of spiritual leprosy include: feeling darkened, confused, alienated, depressed, hard, callous, sensual, greedy. These are in contrast to the symptoms of emotional health: peace, patience, generosity, kindness, gentleness, gratitude.
Tomorrow, I will share how to deal with emotional pain in a way that is healthy and constructive, allowing one to become emotionally mature. Please join me for the next post.
In my pursuit of Real Truth, I have given up everything. Crawling through the “eye of the needle,” I have learned the *mysteries* and am now giving my life to assist YOU to dis-cover Who *YOU* really are, along with your unique gift to offer humanity. As you learn to seek (in the right place and with purified intent), you WILL find treasures of lasting value, along with every promised reward. Together, we will establish a society of humane beings and live life ALIVE, on PURPOSE, and with a sociality unequaled… because we will each BE and view each other as equally and profoundly DIVINE! Please… catch this Hope and Vision and join with me.