Helen Reddy first coined the phrase “a wisdom born of pain” with her 1972 hit “I Am Woman”.  It’s anthemic and well worth the re-listening to if you haven’t heard it lately.  It was inflammatory and inspirational at the time.  I think it’s just inspirational today.  There is a lot of smart stuff entrenched in the lyrics but it’s that phrase “a wisdom born of pain” that caught my mind recently.  “A Wisdom, Born of Pain…”. 

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She was 31 when the hit song first took off.  It’s hard to say if it was meant to from the outset, but it defined and directed her career.   Now much older  she has retired from public performances.  But her lyric lives on.  “A Wisdom Born of Pain”. 

Some wonder if a 30 something knows much about pain.  Frankly, I think many 30 somethings know immense things about pain.   For some, sensitivity to pain is acknowledged from teenage years onward and for others it comes as time marches onward.  Sometimes sensitivity can be hypersensitivity but that’s another post for another time.  As we age, we begin to recognize pain for what it is  and what it does.   I know I am in my late 50’s and better understand pain today than I ever did over the years.   I am experiencing the pain of failing joints and muscles but I am beginning to understand the deeper pain of the soul.  I think I had some awareness over the years, but lately, it’s been a deeper awareness.

What is “wisdom born of pain”.  Well, for me, the emphasis is on “wisdom”.  What have I learned?  What will I take with me out of this experience?  What will I do differently next time?  What will I change that will allow me to gain the benefit of this experience?  We do get wiser as we get older…but it’s a wisdom that is born of pain. 

What is the pain that teaches wisdom?  I laughingly referred to physical pain of failing joints and muscles, but what about the deeper pain?  Feelings of disappointment?  Disrespect?   Failures?   Betrayal?   We need to be aware of our painful feelings lest we miss the lessons available to us in our pain. 

I have recently started seeing people more regularly in a focused counselling practice.  I have been a clergyman all my life but have now devoted the last chapter of my journey to helping people one on one rather than helping congregations corporately.  I am amazed at what people are carrying in their souls.  Deep hurts.  Deep pains.  My hope is that from these deep, hurtful, painful experiences…some wisdom can come. 

How about you?