Pain. I thought I knew what that word meant. I had delivered three sons via caesarean. When my third son was born, I had a terrible cold, including a cough. Coughing uncontrollably after being cut open just below your belly is right up there on any scale of pain.

But this pain. Nerve pain. This was on another pain chart altogether. It began in my lower spine, but the pain points were in my glutes, hamstring, calf and heel. Throbbing. Overwhelming.

I had no idea this kind of pain existed.

Nerve pain is its own brand. At the time, my doctor said that even the weight of a quarter on a nerve would send you through the roof. And this was bone on nerve.

I suffered through the worst of the pain for about two months. Over the course of the next six months, it quieted down to a dull roar, until it faded away entirely.

I still have some minor issues with my left leg if I sit on a too soft chair. A reminder that severe pain leaves a mark.

My mind turns to people who suffer other types of pain: emotional, relational, psychological. They experience the same burning pain, but it’s not the kind of pain for which you get an operation or take a pain pill.

When I was in the deepest pain, my world shrank down to its most minimal. I lived in my bed. I crawled to the bathroom. I barely made it out the door, with my husband’s help, to daily physical therapy. I didn’t go into my kitchen for an entire month. I had tunnel vision and all of my thoughts went to, “How am I going to get through today?”

People who suffer non-physical types of pain are likely in a kind of tunnel vision as well. Their world is smaller than it could be because the pain overshadows any broad view of life.

This is why we need to be nicer to people.

We run into people all the time who are manifesting in a way bothers us or offends us or puts us off. My guess is that most of these people are simply dealing with their pain the only way they know how.

As always, I have to mention boundaries. I am not talking about letting broken people spew on you at their will. You must also take care of yourself.

I am talking about the day-to-day brokenness we witness at the gas station pump, the grocery store line, the school parking lot or the freeway. There is so much anger, entitlement, and self-centeredness.

In some cases, this is simply a sign that people are overwhelmed and they have had to resort to a kind of tunnel vision just to get through the day.

Presence is about seeing through the fog of their behavior, to the person inside. The mom who just found out that her son takes drugs. The man who just found out his wife is cheating on him. The woman who just got news of breast cancer. The couple who just decided to get a divorce. This stuff is happening all around us. And people are trying to carry on, amidst the weight of pain.

Our job, as people of Presence, is to see.

We may not able to help everyone, but we can help the one we are with. A kind word, a gentle smile, a listening ear, a quiet prayer.

Dallas Willard said that blessing is willing the good of another. In that moment, when you see a person acting out, step back, calm down and take a moment to will the good for that person.

Let’s be people who have eyes to see and ears to hear the cries of the hurting around us. Being present takes energy, but it is one of the greatest gifts we can give this busy, harried culture.

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash