“Every hurt is a lesson and every lesson makes you better.”
– Arya Stark, quoting Syrio Forel, Game of Thrones
Season 1, Episode 4, “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things”
Arya is probably one of the most popular characters in the show, and it has a number of popular characters. She says this when her father, Ned Stark, finds her practicing her balance at the top of a flight of stairs. It’s quite a fall she’s risking, he notes, and she answers with this, something her sword master taught her. Then she goes on about chasing cats, to develop her skills.
There is quite a bit of wisdom in this, isn’t there?
When you’re learning to walk, or skate, or something like that, it’s inevitable that you will fall. Each time you fall, it hurts. Each time it hurts, you get back up, and try not to repeat the mistake that preceded the hurt, because you are motivated.
When you are learning a new skill, be it fighting or woodwork or whatever else, pain, be it physical pain or the pain of failure, is inevitable. Same thing happens.
When you are learning to lead a group, a community, or an army, failure is inevitable, and those are harsh lessons indeed.
Pain is the teacher of what not to do, and there is a reason people harp on that more than they talk about what one should do. The greatest masters of every craft have learned countless things not to do. That’s an essential part of how they became masters in the first place. However, that is not the only lesson of pain.
Pain also teaches endurance, the importance of healing and compassion, and it writes onto our souls the worth of what we have suffered for. It is an unwritten currency, automatically exchanged in each transaction of life. Most especially those of the heart and soul.
That is where we most often forget the lessons that pain teaches, I think. Physical pain, we learn to live with. But emotional pain, we cannot physically measure and observe and simply learn from. Old hurts can still throb like fresh injuries. And so, once we are hurt within, we tend to try especially hard to avoid it again. Once burned, twice shy, as they say.
Or, even worse, we go headlong into the pain and grow ourselves around it, until, on some level, we have come to define ourselves by that particular agony.
But both ways ignore the purpose of our pain: to teach us.
Once the lesson is learned, the pain can be done, and done away with.
A broken heart can heal, and the lesson is not to lock it away, but to trust more carefully.
Loss may leave a scar that never fades, but it need not bleed forever, and it need not bar us from having joy again.
The rose has thorns. That means we should hold them carefully, not that we should never hold them at all.