I have an eating addiction. It’s something I developed in my early teenage years after experiencing a series of traumatic moments in the years leading up to my teenage years. Drug addicts will share how they experience anxiety and fear over the moment in which they first encounter drugs. In my early 20’s, when I first started confronting my eating addiction, I experienced the same anxiety and fear every time I passed Swedish Fish in the candy aisle. I would walk around the store for an hour debating on whether or not it would be okay for me to eat the Swedish Fish. In those years of transition, I had so much fear over failing in changing my life, that I would cause myself such anxiety that I would binge back into the addiction. When we fear failure, we choke all the life out of any potential success.
When I spend time with people in suffering, I feel my job is to be present with them. Sometimes, people just need to rest, so they can regain the energy needed to deal with their life. Sometimes, they need space to get away from it. Ultimately, what people in suffering need is to be led to what is causing them suffering. They need to feel the pain of their lives. They need to share the thoughts, and emotions they have, so they can be liberated from them. Thomas Merton correctly said, “The more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers most.”
Fear is inevitable. Suffering is inevitable. The more we resist them, the more we become consumed in it. We can experience these things and become masters of life, or we can avoid them and be reduced nothing. Henri Nouwen said, “We can either be arrogant victims, or wounded healers.” Will we let our wounds heal and teach others, or will we become the narcissistic byproducts of our life experiences?