Discomfort vs. Pain

It appears I’m in need of a philosophical smack down because yesterday I discovered the graphic declaring how lucky I am in the face of a hard day and today I’ve come across this:


Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange, 1936.
Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange, 1936.


This photo was taken during the U.S. Great Depression. Here’s the caption that goes with the image:


“Nipomo, Calif. Mar. 1936. Migrant agricultural worker’s family. Seven hungry children. Mother aged 32, the father is a native Californian. Destitute in a pea pickers camp, because of the failure of the early pea crop. These people had just sold their tent in order to buy food. Most of the 2,500 people in this camp were destitute.”

I read the stark, descriptive sentences and cringe, forced to recognize that 73 years ago this sister I’ve never known woke up, looked at her life and thought, “This is not what I expected.”


To put this image in another light, take a hard look at this woman’s face. She’s is 32 years old. Today, right now, Paris Hilton is 32 years old. One of these women looks much more world-weary than the other.


I don’t believe we’re asked to compare our heartaches to others to determine whether we should really be feeling the pain of disappointment, pain is pain.


But I do wonder if I’ve begun to call “discomfort,” “pain” without realizing my place of privilege.


What are your thoughts on your ability to discern the difference between “discomfort” and “pain”? How do you think the U.S. is doing with this as a culture?



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One thought on “Discomfort vs. Pain

  • March 30, 2013 at 9:16 am

    Both this post and the previous one are so thought provoking. It’s true. Discomfort is not pain. Discouragement is not depression. Yet, how often am I, too, guilty of misusing those words–and worse, believing the lie I create when I misuse them.

    Yesterday, I spoke with another friend who shared her recent health issues with me. As we talked, I was reminded how much I have to be thankful for…especially when, most days, I am in good health. We agreed that sometimes, it’s beneficial to have a “crisis” in our lives. It puts the rest of our lives into proper perspective.


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