| Family Reflections |

Pain, the Best Teacher

What role does pain play in our life?


e’re not big fans of pain. We don’t like heartbreak or headaches. Yet Hashem has made pain a part of our existence. Despite the fact that the deep spiritual secrets behind the necessity for pain will elude us in This World, we can appreciate some of its basic functions.

“I love candy corn. Put a big bowl of candy corn in front of me, and I’ll eat the whole thing and ask for more. Then I’ll go to bed and lie awake all night with a terrible stomachache.”

Pain can help us lead healthier and happier lives by encouraging us to modify our choices. Repeated stomachaches may eventually cause a “candy addict” to cut down on the quantity of inflammatory, disease-promoting treats she consumes.

Of course, ignoring the pain and its ramifications is also an option: We have free will. Pain is simply a gift that might nudge us in the right direction.

But why pain? Can’t Hashem educate us another way? A simple news release would do. Hashem does this also. He makes sure we have a plethora of research on the potentially harmful effects of a wide range of toxins. Although He provides the information, we still have free will; we’re free to ignore it and often do.

Well, maybe Hashem shouldn’t get involved at all. Let us eat and do whatever we want and let the chips fall where they may. If Hashem doesn’t “bother” us with warnings and feedback, we can just enjoy our lives. Then when things go wrong and we expire a few decades earlier than expected due to out-of-control disease processes, we can always chalk that up to a predestined short lifespan.

Out of His love for us, Hashem refuses to abandon us to our lower instincts — no matter how much we wish He would — so He sends us pain.



Some people feel that loving parents should never inflict pain (punishment) on their children. The word “punishment” is itself considered to be abusive. We try to clean it up with euphemisms such as “consequences” but even more, we discourage parents from imposing deterrents altogether.

Let’s take the case of a nine-year-old girl who routinely teases her seven-year-old sister. In some models of education, parents might be encouraged to stand back and let the girls work this out on their own. But it turns out that the nine-year-old doesn’t understand that she’s pushing her sister away from her, robbing herself and the younger girl of a loving, secure, and happy companionship. What if the parents had simply explained to the older one that she must not hurt her sister’s feelings through words or deeds — both because this is what Hashem ordained and also because she may harm an important lifelong relationship?

Unfortunately, for both kids and adults, information, education, and warnings often have little effect. Did anyone ever tell YOU that eating sugar may increase your chances of developing dementia, some cancers, diabetes, and heart disease? No? Look it up — the Harvard Medical School reported in 2022 that added sugar (not naturally occurring fruit sugar) is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease. Now that you know this, are you planning to take sugar out of your diet? Exactly my point.

Now what if the parents really cared about the damage being perpetrated within their daughters’ relationship? What if they were willing to do anything to help promote a strong bond between their girls? Knowing that they could never ensure that the girls would love each other (since they each have free will), the parents at least want to make sure there are no impediments to forming the kind of positive connection that could support them throughout their lives.

With this desire in mind, they decide to inflict pain on the nine-year-old with the hope that it will disrupt her pattern of destructive behavior. They will do so without rejecting, shaming, frightening, or otherwise abusing their beloved daughter. They’ll even give her the chance to avoid the pain altogether by offering fair warning that her behavior needs to change: “From now on, when you say or do inappropriate and unacceptable things like (name relevant examples), there will be such and such negative consequence (specify exactly what it is).”

Yes, they’re willing to mete out old-fashioned punishment in order to heal, redirect, and save their daughter from far greater loss and pain. They care that much.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 879)

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