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  • David A. Case

Wounded? Or Just Hurting?


There is true wounding—the kind of thing that brings long term harm to a person. There is perceived pain. Sometimes, a person bringing pain is actually doing me a favor. Sometimes, they are doing me deep and lasting harm.

Pain happens when something we care about is violated. When people care about very different things, there can be a clash between the two value systems. Scott Miller, founder of the Circles program, has documented some of the different values that exists in a poverty culture, versus middle class culture (and also the wealthy). Those in poverty have a very different set of values for how they handle possessions than those in the middle class. Those in poverty feel a sense of obligation to share what they have with others. Those in the middle class, feel a need to protect what is theirs in order to be prepared for the future.

Because they value different things, what is considered reasonable for one group is an absolute offense to the other group. What those in poverty would call a hoarding of resources is an offense to them. The middle class person would see that same hoarding as taking responsibility for self.

We feel pain according to what we care about. Some values should be universal—meaning that we should all feel pain the same way. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. People feel pain according to what they care about, and what they care about comes from a combination of each person’s inner character and his life training.

Some things are very harmful. They wound others, but real wounds and felt pain are two very different things. People with a calloused heart can wound others and feel no pain. People who are looking for an offense can feel pain when none is intended and there probably should not have been any pain received.

Are you being wounded? Or are you just hurting? Is the pain you are feeling lying to you when it says that bad things are happening? Proverbs 27:6a says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” This verse even uses the word "wounds," but a true friend will not respond in a way that harms another person. Just because it hurts, doesn’t mean it is bad!

Our nation doesn’t understand that difference right now. Living offended seems to be sport with the winner of the game being the one who has the most pain on his side. Most of our pain comes out of our value systems. The poor person generally feels pain over one set of political decisions. The middle class person feels pain over a different set of choices being made.

Every value has good and bad applications. There are lessons that those in poverty culture could teach the rest of the nation about sharing—if others would listen. Those in poverty could learn some valuable lessons from the middle class values, if they were willing to walk through the pain needed to get a better future.

A strong cultural value in today’s world is “I want to live free of pain.” The only way for that to happen would be for a person to live with no values—totally dead to everyone and everything. That is impossible. So we have pain and lots of it because the pain itself has become an offense according to the values system.

Are you being wounded? Or just hurting? Level of pain doesn’t necessarily tell us much. It may be an indicator of a very unhealthy set of values being held to very tightly. The tighter the hold, the more the pain.

Until we figure out that pain is a shallow and shifting test, we will continue to have many screaming on opposite sides with no one being heard. Pain cannot be the measure we use to test good and evil, better and best. The only good test is outcomes. Is something helpful over time or is it destructive?

Does a particular value result in good outcomes? Does it result in a decreased quality of life? The irony is that our value of trying to avoid pain is a principle cause of the accelerating level of pain we see in our nation today. Sometimes pain is needed to get better, to grow, to have better outcomes. Are you being wounded? Or just hurting?


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