Pain Is A Bridge, Not A Wall

When we are in pain, we understand the pain of others.

James E. McGinley, PhD
3 min readJun 3, 2022


Young woman standing in wind with eyes closed.
Photo by M.T ElGassier on Unsplash

It is a simple truth, pain hurts. And, when we hurt, we often feel alone and abandoned. We may wonder, why me? Or, when will this end?

But there is another truth, we are not alone, even in our pain.

The isolation of pain.

Nothing is more lonely than being in pain, physically or emotionally, and experiencing the gulf between what we feel inside and what is happening in the world around us. The difference is invisible to those we are with, but to us it resonates in our soul and fills our ears with crushing silence.

It can be worse when our pain is long-lasting. Our pain never goes away, but others tire of it and begin to dismiss it. They may even begin to accuse us of falsely fabricating our own misery. Too often, compassion turns slowly, or quickly, into judgment. Understanding turns into disbelief.

Unfortunately, emotional support often has weak roots. Others want to care, but they simply lack the staying power to remain with us. The result is that we feel even more abandoned. We may feel that no one understands and that no one hurts in the way that we do.

But it is not true.

The world is in pain.

Now more than ever, the world sits on the edge of its own destruction. It cries out in pain. Rationally, we know it is true. We see it every day. But emotionally, we do not feel it when we are in pain ourselves. Our own pain is too intense. It overshadows what we see and how we feel. Our own pain pushes us away from the world. We simply can’t get beyond ourselves. The emotional gravity is just too strong.

Sometimes, we keep a tenuous connection to the world. But we are like shipwrecked survivors floating in the water. In a sense we are together, but we are all lost and alone. The pain of the world ripples through and amplifies our own pain without us really feeling its connection.

Pain is a bridge, not a wall.

The word compassion has its roots in the Latin words com, which means with, and pati, which means to suffer. So, to have compassion means to suffer with. When…



James E. McGinley, PhD

James McGinley, PhD is a professor, author, certified life coach, and licensed counselor.