Pain does not equal gain. Pain = pain. Now before you start throwing eggs at me, hear me out…
I realized recently that I STILL have this belief buried deep in my subconscious, even though I diligently do the work to free myself of it and have been for YEARS, and even though I’d SWEAR I don’t have that belief, there it was, lodged in my noggin like the cherished old script that it is.
And of course it is!
We are all literally STEWING in this belief, in all corners of the globe. It expresses in everything from the holiness and righteousness of suffering (the more you suffer, the better a person you are), to the pay off of blood, sweat and tears of our hustle and grind work culture (the more in control you are the more powerful and successful you are), to fitness goals, beauty goals, personal growth goals, and beyond. It runs DEEP. It is a foundational belief of our society.
And you’re probably asking yourself: “why shouldn’t it be?! It is TRUE that gain comes out of pain! Even in personal growth and evolution! Or learning your craft! You learn and grow and deepen and become better!”
I had the same argument, and it’s what has kept this narrative at play in my life. So I sat down recently and I questioned this belief, and I want to share my findings with you. I’m not here to change your mind, I’m just here to share how my mind is opened and changed by these findings, and let you decide for yourself.
My process for this is taking the belief and then turning it around to the opposite (taken from The Work of Byron Katie) and finding at least 3 reasons that could be just as true or truer. Here’s how that went down…
The Belief: Pain = Gain.
(the more you suffer the more progress you’ll make, the better person you’ll be, the more it hurts, the more worthy you are of receiving, etc. etc.)
Turn it around: Pain Does NOT Equal Gain.
How could that statement be just as true or truer than the original?
Right away I am shocked at how much resistance I have to this because it just seems like it is absolutely really TRUE. But I persist in answering the question and trying to find some examples anyway…
It could be just as true or truer that pain does NOT equal gain because:
1. Millions (or billions) of people all over the globe have worked really hard their whole lives and put themselves through tremendous amounts of pain to earn their right to ‘better’ and have not gained the things they’ve wanted to. Ouch. That hurts but is necessary to see so we can stop collectively believing pain is the answer.
2. In terms of work and livelihood, people do a lot of painful things to ‘get ahead’, and I notice that they may or may not ‘get ahead’, some do, some don’t, but people who DON’T believe that pain = gain ALSO get ahead, and seem to do so much easier, because they don’t believe they have to suffer to prove they are “good”, or good enough. In other words – they already feel WORTHY.
3. It could be more true because when I am in pain it is not “making me better” it is just pain. What does seem to make me better is dis-identifying from that pain so that it no longer controls me, even while it’s there, but it is not the PAIN that is making things better, it is the PRESENCE. 🤯🤯🤯🙌🙌🙌 The awareness. That is so subtle, that difference!
So it’s not the pain that is growing me, pain is just pain. It is the PRESENCE, and the AWARENESS of the pain and the dis-identification with it that grows me, and that makes things better and easier…
It’s not the PAIN that makes us “good” or “better”, it’s the LOVE. It’s the LOVE.
When someone is learning a new skill, trade or craft, starting a new business, pursuing a new dream… it’s the LOVE of the thing that keeps them going, keeps them staying with it, and it is the staying that makes them better, the loving that makes them better, not the pain.
The pain is just pain. But if I have a story that the pain is what makes me worthy and a better person, I will cling to it like a life-raft and re-create it unnecessarily and in really sneaky ways to earn my chops (and perhaps never get there, or resent the hell out of the people that do).
This does not mean that life is pain and challenge free. Not at all, cause look: here it is! It is here. It ONLY means you no longer have a hidden motive to stay in pain and to unconsciously create more pain because otherwise you might have your “good person” card revoked. Or your “deep and caring person” card revoked. Or your “worthy and deserving person” card revoked. Or any other number of cards that I personally have feared having revoked. 😂
The fact is people have and will revoke these cards from me. And it’s their right to do so. We put people on pedestals and we tear them down all the time, if only in the privacy of our minds. It’s not their lack of love I’m worried about… it’s MINE. Will I stay with myself and still love me if “they” don’t? (whomever “they” may be).
Just because pain has been a mechanism of growth from our past, does not mean it has to be a mechanism of growth for our future. As greater conscious awareness and love begin to take the forefront (which IS in process for humanity) that foundation will eventually fully shift.
If you don’t believe me, just look at the pain we used to tolerate!? People literally murdering people in the ring for entertainment while people ate snacks and cheered. And all manner of other monstrous things we used to do to ourselves and others in the name of glory, that we no longer do.
These days we use OTHER methods and sneakier means, but it still equates to self-punishment. And many of us have gladly subjected ourselves to it for that honor.
We don’t go out to the garden and start screaming at the roses to “f-ing bloom already” do we?? We don’t tell babies to grow the f-up. But the roses do bloom, and the babies do grow, because of LOVE and presence, not because of punishing “lessons”.
The important shift here is to see that it is not pain and suffering that makes you good. It is love that makes you good. And you can take that further and see that “good” is just a judgement, and that love can look a lot of ways and like a lot of things (not just like loving behavior if that love doesn’t include you)… but that’s for another time and another exploration.
As I untangle myself from this narrative, I set myself more and more free from having to FIGHT for everything I need and desire (because that’s what good people have to do, right? Only spoiled assholes don’t, right? OOF! and yes I turned that one right around too)… As I let go of these beliefs, I get to start fighting less, and allowing more.
Because as you’ve seen in this article, things are not true or untrue in and of themselves, we make them so with our belief in them. I could make this statement true or I can make it false, there is evidence for both, so the more important question is not whether a belief is TRUE or not, but whether it is SERVING YOU or not. And the belief that pain = gain is most certainly not serving me, not anymore.
If your mind is piping up with “but what about the pain we need to go through to create needed change?!” again, I remind us all that it is the PRESENCE and the willingness to be with what arises in life with LOVE that creates needed change. Pain is one way change shows up, but it is not the ONLY way.
As I let this belief that pain = gain go, I get to just start BEING more, and that has restored me in body, mind, heart and soul. It is an ongoing journey, it’s like a sweater that slowly unravels over time, but with every new level it’s more clear.