Expressing Pain
By Anthony Casperson

Many long-running TV shows (particularly if they’re a comedy series or are sci-fi, fantasy, or superhero related) eventually get to the point where they pull out the “Freaky Friday” episode. Two characters who’ve often butted heads wake up one morning in the body of each other.

The pair get angry at first, wondering what the other character did to make this happen. Sometimes, the reason for the switch becomes known. Other times, not so much. But one thing that we as the audience know is that they’re not going to get back to normal until both individuals come to learn about the perspective of the other.

That difference which causes the pair to butt heads becomes the primary focus of their learning about the lives of the other. Each will try to force their perspective in the life of the person whose body they’re inhabiting. But eventually they’ll discover that there are reasons why each holds the perspective that they do.

It’s at this point in the story that both people try their best to act in line with the perspective they once thought to be so alien. And this is when the two come to understand each other better. After that, the return switch happens. And things go back to relative normalcy.

Sure, there might still be differences in their perspectives, but both parties have grown to appreciate the other in a way that could never have happened if they had not been forced to take the perspective of the other.

Personal growth happened when the people pursued the understanding of another’s point of view.

It’s a tired trope, to be honest. But perhaps its one that we’ve become deafened to because we as human beings are fond of only thinking about things from our own perspective. I mean, we are finite beings who have only a singular experience to draw from. But maybe we should be willing to look at things from another’s perspective before butting heads with one another and coming to injure another, whether that be physical or psychological injury.

But what does that look like? How do beings with singular perspective bear witness to the point of view of another? Honestly, the answer sounds simple, but it is very difficult for us to do. It’s being willing to listen to someone who disagrees with us, without immediately taking offense or thinking only about our point of view’s response to what they’re saying.

Let me give a recent personal example, that’s certainly not perfect, but an example nonetheless. I came across an interview of a woman who believed something very much different from my system of belief, which stems from Jesus. She spoke of feeling shamed and hated by people who claimed to be Christians because she had acted in a way that went against their beliefs.

Now, to be fair, she didn’t speak of it this way. Rather, her injured (and yet also hurtful) words revealed that she was thinking of the situation from a perspective that believed she was in the right. And by extension, anyone who agreed with those who had hurt her was a hateful bigot.

While I had a momentary feeling of being attacked for my own beliefs because of what she said, it subsided when I took a moment to hear the pain of her experience. There was more to this than just a theoretical difference of opinion. An image-bearer of God (even if she would never call herself that) had come to injury because of the actions of those who claimed to follow Jesus.

When I took the time to listen to her pain, I remembered her humanity, the image of the God I serve stamped on someone whom he loves even though she rejects him. My heart broke for her pain, even though I still believe what she did was not in line with God’s purpose for humanity.

Looking at the situation from another perspective caused me to try to think about how the situation could be dealt with differently. How truth could be revealed without hatred. God’s righteousness without human injury.

And part of that, I think, involves attempting our best to explain the pain held within we followers of Jesus to the person who disagrees with us. In this particular situation, if someone had come up to this woman and explained that they had a negative gut reaction to her action because they believed that what she did was akin to (if not the same thing as) something that pretty much everyone believes to be wrong, she might be more easily able to understand why followers of Jesus tend to react badly to those who act in such a way.

In sharing our pain, we might just help a fellow image-bearer of God understand the heart of God. Rules and regulations can be disregarded by those who hold such things in contempt. But if we share our heart with others, and allow them the same dignity, then disagreement might not have to end in hatred and injury.

And God’s truth might just be shown in his love.