Authentic Discomfort: What’s Your Comfort Level?

Kim Porter April 10, 2014
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The discomfort of pain can be unbearable. But what about the “painless” yet anxiety-ridden types of discomfort like fear, nervousness or vulnerability? Aren’t those supposed to signal a course correction? I want to challenge that assumption. More and more, I am beginning to believe that those feelings are not only natural, but, if used in the right way, they can be life giving! I believe that we need to look at those feelings in multiple contexts and, through that exploration, we will find that sometimes they are not harmful, but they are exactly what we need!

If you have lived on this earth even for a short while, you know what it’s like to feel anxiety and fear and yet come out on the other side jubilant and accomplished. It happens all the time. We face the schoolyard bully and he runs away crying. We sweat and worry over a huge interview and the employer offers us the job on the spot. The opposite also happens. Instead of crying, the bully hits us square in the face and breaks our nose. The potential employer looks over our resume, frowns and ends the interview early. You can probably fill in the blanks with much deeper losses of your own. Pain and discomfort can lead to sorrow and loss. That is a huge reason why we tend to run from those feelings. We are afraid of what they will lead to. But how can we fully embrace any moment unless we have felt the pull to abandon it all and push through the uncomfortable? The questions we need to wrestle with are, “What if?”. “What if” we push through the anxiety of the interview or presentation? “What if” we do something that feels awkward and unnatural? What if” we let vulnerability, instead of composure, determine our next move? What then? Could it be that the uncomfortableness we fight could actually help us embrace a better future?

If someone could bottle anxiety and physical pain together and create an object out of the potion, I truly believe that it likely would be something like a roller coaster. I don’t have anything against the thrill or excitement roller coasters create, the simple truth is, I am extremely motion-sensitive. My parents told me that they found out I had the condition when, while taking a trip down south, I began to vomit in my car seat at less than a year old. Because of this life long truth, I avoid roller coasters when I can. However, once in a while, being close to Kings Island, I will venture on a ride out of “peer” pressure. Two years ago, as I was once again experiencing the stomach discomfort and head-splitting pain of a ride, I decided to do something completely unnatural and unauthentic to me – I relaxed. I stopped white-knuckling my hold on the bars and breathed in and out slowly. I concentrated on sitting back in the seat and letting my body “go”. The wind whipped through my hair as I closed my eyes and let the experience unfold. Even though the ride still turned my stomach inside out, I noticed that I did not have a headache, my vision was less blurred and my muscles were much less tense at the end of the ride. It was one of the hardest things I have had to do in the midst of a physically uncomfortable situation, but my leaning into the discomfort is what ultimately gave me relief. It was incredible! That didn’t mean that I would seek out rides like that on a regular basis, but it told me that when I am faced with moments that would initially turn me in the opposite direction, I could face them.  And I could win.

The truest form of allowing pain to guide our experience took place on an old rugged cross over 2,000 years ago. A man, name Jesus, beaten, scorned and nailed to a wooden beam was offered a drink that could have relieved his pain. But he didn’t. In the book of Matthew 27:34, it says,

“they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it.”

Its easy to pass over that sentence and keep going through the text, but the question remains. Why did Jesus refuse to drink it?

If we do some research, we will find that The English word “gall”, in the New Testament, comes from the Greek word “chole” (Strong’s Concordance #G5521) which literally means “poison”. In those times, criminals were offered the poison to dull, or even end, their suffering. By refusing to drink the poison, Jesus was declaring that he was not going to take the comfortable way out. He knew what he was called to do and he was going to see it through, no matter how much pain it brought on him. He knew who he was, his true authentic identity. What a powerful example he gave us even in the last moments before his death. Lean in. Embrace it. Follow through. Jesus did all those things following through not only to his death, but most importantly to the true end- his resurrection from the dead!

So what is it that you need to lean into? Where do you need to “let go” in order to experience true authenticity? It begins with one step, one choice and one moment at a time. Channel the anxiety, push past the pain and believe you can win. Watch out. You just might.

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Kim Porter

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