Photo by Roman Carey from Pexels
45 Sharing the pain
This quote has been a beacon in my
Lord, Number us we beseech thee in the ranks of those who went
forth from this university longing only for those things for
which thou doest make us long; men for whom the complexity of
issues only served to renew their zeal to deal with them; men who
alleviated pain by sharing it, and men who were always willing to
risk something big for something good. So may we leave in
the world a little more truth, a little more justice, a little
more beauty than would have been there had we not loved the world
enough to quarrel with it for what it is not but still could
be. O God, take our minds and think through them, take our
lips and speak through them, and take our hearts and set them on
[Dr. William Sloane
Coffin, Yale University
(1960's?) commencement benediction
transcribed from Studs Terkel’s Born To Live]
We should clarify this statement. It
refers to sharing the burden of pain, not the pain itself.
Sharing a burden is positive, lifting pain off the sufferer. We
can make that obvious with examples:
- When my wife had the pain of hip replacement it would not have
helped to have mine replaced so that I would experience the same
pain. I shared the burden of her pain by doing some of her
work to reduce the amount of her pain without duplicating
- Hurting people hurt people. Rioters are spreading their pain to
others. If I assume their position, subjecting myself to the pain
they feel, I am expanding the problem, not reducing it. Bearing
the burden of their pain means changing the
conditions that pained them. That is
- If a friend commits suicide, I am not required to commit suicide
also. Sharing the burden means to comfort and serve the survivors
and reduce the pain of others in danger of suicide.
- When a friend is distraught, it does not help if I become
distraught and feel the same way. That diminishes my strength to
bear some of the burden. I must apply all my strength, which lies
in my happiness.
This is transfiguring “sharing” into the
image of bearing a load. My caisson carries the ammunition of
happiness. I load it with the sufferer’s burden. Sharing does not
mean I jump off the vehicle to become as helpless as my friend.
Sharing calls for using my means to carry a common load. Bearing
up a person’s sorrow on my strength replaces pain with shared
happiness. It requires being the happiness that I
In the heat of riot, to abandon my
happiness is to abandon my post and be of no help at all.
Rioters (hurting people) are the first victims.
Unconditional forgiveness points in both directions. Like it or
not, we rely on those who have the happiness and the means for
making a difference to do so—not through gridlocked government,
but through loving administration of their own resources for the
My friends of modest means are already
engaging in commerce that is not so much directed at their
personal benefit as it is intended to maintain the livelihoods of
others. People of substantial means need to apply their
management skills far beyond merely patronizing businesses. An
individual can grab the flag and run with it.
Our shared joy will not be
reconstruction; it will instead create a new world.
Being For Others Blog copyright © 2020 Kent Busse
Have you shared this with someone?