Of all the pieces of advice that I loathe receiving (and my stubborn inner child loathes receiving a LOT of advice) there is one piece in particular that irks me.
And that piece is, “I don’t think you should try for [insert opportunity, job or person here] because it might not work out. And I don’t want to see you get hurt.”
Now, I understand why our loved ones so often turn to this adage. No one wants to see someone they care about get burned.
No one wants their friend’s or child’s life turned upside down because they took a crazy risk and it failed to work out for them. No one wants the people they love go through pain.
And yet here’s the trouble with this advice:
Life is all about getting hurt.
Seriously. Think about it for a minute.
What good has playing it small ever done for you? What great rewards have you reaped from staying sheltered and safe and unchallenged? What great lessons and rewards have come out of the chances you failed to take?
I’m guessing few to none. Because getting hurt isn’t just a consequence or punishment – it’s an essential ingredient to our growth.
The whole of living is wrapped up in pain. It’s about the giving too much and the going to hard and the fucking up and falling apart and then piecing yourself back together.
Life is about learning from each other, growing through relationships, letting a person or a situation or an opportunity change the way you think and look at and react to the world around you.
And of course that’s going to sometimes end in pain.
Pain is an essential component of living – it’s not something we can choose to avoid.
Telling someone “I don’t want to see you get hurt,” is also telling them, “I don’t want to see you grow.”
It’s telling them, “I don’t want you to feel love.”
“I don’t want things to change for you.”
“I don’t want your life to be a dynamic and continuous unfolding that teaches and inspires and ultimately strengthens you as a result of what you’ve been through.”
Telling someone you don’t want to see them get hurt is telling them you do not want them to fully experience their lives… because you don’t want to witness their struggle. Because it hurts you to see them hurting.
Because ultimately, here’s what we don’t acknowledge when we tell our friends or our loved ones or our children that we don’t want them to hurt: The pain of losing out on experiences will always be greater, in the long run, than the pain of getting burned by a single experience gone wrong.
Wounds heal. Sores close over. Life keeps flowing past every injury and upset that we encounter along the way. But the dull, throbbing ache of never having gone for anything – that’s the kind of pain that dismantles you from the inside out.
That’s the pain that follows you through your life, that refuses to dislodge from the backburner, that slowly but surely drives you mad, wondering what would have happened if you’d only taken that one chance.
So if you really don’t want to see your loved ones get hurt, the most magnanimous thing you could possibly urge them to do is to run TOWARDS those potentially painful situations. To encourage them to love fully, to live freely, to get too close to that flame just enough times to finally work out what their heat tolerance is.
To let pain be their teacher rather than their enemy.
And to be there for them, every single time they mess up.
Every time they fly too close to the sun and watch their wings melt. Every time they jump in with both feet and find the water’s dangerously shallow. Every time we know so much better but we have to let them find out for themselves.
Because at the end of the day, there’s no such thing as a no-risk option in life.
So let your loved ones choose the pain that’s going to grow them.
Because not getting hurt has never been an option at all.