Published 5:55 pm Wednesday, July 9, 2008

No pain, no gain.

That was the title of a powerful song by Betty Wright in the late 80s. She put a unique spin on pain in romantic relationships: Pain is bad at the time, but it produces something good in the end. Wright says the following: In order to get something, you have to give something. In order to be something, you have to go through something. Anything worth having is worth working for and waiting for. No pain, no gain.

Rehab operates on a similar philosophy. We are taken repeatedly beyond our pain threshold to get parts of the physical body back to normal. It’s the only way to regain full use of our limbs. No pain, no gain.

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This concept is applicable not only to rehab but throughout every area of life. During my childhood, I had a number of painful encounters. I would never voluntarily experience the pain of those moments but looking back, I see that I grew greatly from each.

My mother almost chopped my head off with an axe because I was so mean and hateful. It was one of the most painful experiences of my life, but it helped me to grow out of my extreme meanness. No pain, no gain.

My whole seventh-grade class laughed at me because I said I wanted to be a lawyer. I cried, and that made them laugh even more. After that painful experience, I was determined to be a lawyer even if it killed me. Without that painful episode, I probably would not have escaped the clutches of poverty and racism to become a lawyer. No pain, no gain.

On another occasion, I recall running for miles like a crazy man because I heard strange sounds while I was near a cemetery. Each time I moved, I heard the sound. Each time I stopped, the sound stopped. Each time I moved slowly, the sound moved slowly. I began to run. The faster I ran, the faster the sound moved. I thought it was a ghost.

The physical pain became unbearable, but I kept running. The mental and emotional pains were overwhelming. When I could not run anymore and was falling down from sheer exhaustion, I realized the corduroy pants I was wearing were making the scary sounds.

This was a very painful experience. But I learned a powerful lesson: when I hear something, I first check myself. So often what I hear is coming from me. When I get “me” out of the way, I can proceed effectively. It’s a great approach, but I would never have adopted it except for the pain stimulated by ghost-like sounds from a pair of corduroy pants. No pain, no gain.

All of my growing pains did not happen while I was a child. After Faya Rose and I got married, we spent a year in Nigeria, West Africa. After about three months, I noticed that she’d suddenly become sneaky. I became jealous and confronted her. I forced her to spill the beans: She was planning a surprise birthday party for me. That was a very humiliating and painful moment, but I grew greatly from that experience. I learned to manage jealousy. No pain, no gain.

Shortly after I came to the Alabama Senate, I had a terrible encounter involving a local bill for Greene County. The bill literally disappeared. I did not know what was going on, so I held up all other local bills for months. In my pain, I began talking to a variety of senators, even the ones I knew were against me. I discovered that even those against me would give me a little bit of information. As a result, I was eventually able to put the puzzle together. The bill re-appeared

Out of that pain grew an understanding of how powerful it is to communicate across lines of perceived difference. Just talking produces good fruit regardless of the situation. No pain, no gain.

I have many other examples too numerous to name. I believe that if you examine your life, you will find many painful moments that produced great gains. No pain, no gain.

As I go through painful experiences, I try to remember that it’s not what I am going through but what I am going to. During every bit of pain in rehab, I remind myself that if I endure the pain, I will have complete use of my legs. If I do not endure the pain, I will not have complete use of my legs.

As Betty Wright says, “In order to get something, you have to give something. In order to be something, you have to go through something. No pain, no gain.”