The Problem of Pain

I’ve heard a lot of arguments against spanking children over the last 20 years. I only want to address one aspect of the argument.

Those who are opposed to spanking seem to me to be opposed to physical pain. Emotional pain, apparently, is no problem because “time out” is okay. It’s just physical pain that is unacceptable.

I’m not sure what world those people are living in. I have never lived in a world where physical pain wasn’t normal and enduring it wasn’t beneficial. I don’t touch nettles because they hurt. I know this from experience. I don’t touch 55-gallon drums with bonfires burning in them because I did it once. The pain is instant. You don’t have a second or two; touch and blister is the name of that game.

I didn’t do anything wrong when I got leukemia (at least I don’t think I did). I just got leukemia. The pain life handed out to me by means of falling out of a tree, crashing my bicycle, bumping my head into a steel beam, and plucking my fingernail out between two gears helped prepare me for the hundreds of needles that poked me, the 3-inch needle they stuck into my spinal cord five or six times, and the chemo that turned everything from tongue to my colon into a mess of raw or blistering flesh.

Pain’s part of life.

If we have any compassion in us, we go through extreme measures to relieve extreme pain in those around us. Our hearts are moved when we see the rampant disease in third world countries, and we cringe when we see extremes of injury or disease in people near at hand or far away.

We also laugh when our dearest friends, even our spouse, stubs a toe or bumps a knee. Yeah, we check on our loved one to make sure they’re okay, and once we’ve determined that they are … we laugh at them. I have been both the groaning one on the ground telling someone to stop laughing and the one laughing all the harder at the complaints of my not-quite-injured loved one.

We moan and complain about the soreness at the end of a hard, long day of moving, but really we’re quite proud of the pain. I did it. I worked hard. I got to the end. That’s what we’re really feeling.

I’m getting old, and my body is acting older than I am because it’s still recovering from the leukemia treatment. The day before yesterday, I put boxes on shelves for three hours. By the time I realized how much my feet hurt, I couldn’t walk all the way back to my office. I had to rest in someone else’s office  for a few minutes, then hobble to my own and get my feet up on my desk.

Do I regret that? No way! I had no idea I could load shelves for three hours. I am not thinking, “Wow, that pain was terrible. I can’t believe I had to go through that.” Instead, I’m thinking, “I’m getting better faster than I thought. Also, I bet I burned a thousand calories out there in the cold loading those boxes.”

I actually understand some of the arguments for not spanking children. Personally, I think you have to both creative and unusually intelligent to raise a respectful, considerate child without spanking. I also think that 2-year-olds that have not been spanked are a constant danger to themselves.

That’s beside the point of this post. I know there’s people who disagree with me.

America, though, has developed a fear of pain that is bizarre. Pain, in many cases, is a good thing. If a fear of spanking is based on nothing more than the crazy thought that pain is bad for our children, then we need to come back to living in the real world, where pain is among nature’s–and God’s–primary means of getting a lesson to sink in.

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2 Responses to The Problem of Pain

  1. Peter Hakkenberg says:

    Paul, I’ve never heard of a fear of pain argument before. In our own experience it has not been a choice of spanking or not.. it has been a rule that whatever you do, you do with love. That is all, nothing more, nothing less.

    • paulfpavao says:

      That’s just the point. What makes “time out” love and spanking not love? What makes any alternative to spanking “love”? The only possible reasoning is that causing physical pain is somehow not love, and I don’t agree that’s true.

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