I recently had an unpleasant interaction with someone who has chronic pain. It made me think a lot about:
- the effects of having pain,
- how it can change our interactions with others, and
- if there are limits to using pain as an excuse for bad behavior
The situation: I had planned to send a music CD to an acquaintance who has significant pain and told her I’d be sending her a package. However, when I went to the post office to mail it, I found out postage would cost $25. Much more than the $10 or so I was expecting, and more than the CD itself cost.
I researched the CD and found out there was an electronic version. I then contacted her and explained the situation. I asked if I could send an electronic version instead, or if there was anything else I could do to make up for not mailing the CD.
She responded by saying I had devastated her. She said that because she has pain, there are few positive things in her life. She had really been looking forward to receiving the CD, but now instead felt horrible. She reprimanded me and said I should never do that again – promise something and then say I couldn’t follow through. She scolded me that I should have known the postage before hand and, if it was too much, never offered her the CD in the first place.
As I didn’t want to cause more suffering for someone, I apologized for causing her disappointment and then sent the CD. Yet I was struck by her irritability and what I saw as inflexibility and unreasonableness. And I never received any acknowledgment from her that she received it, or a thank you.
What would you have done?
Do we have to be more careful around people with pain? Do we have to do things for people with pain even at a inconvenience to ourselves? Do we accept irritablity and inflexibility, saying, “well, that person has pain”?
Or, do we have to reign in our irritability and inflexibility, despite our pain. And, when we do get irritable and inflexible as we all sometimes do, should we then apologize?
What are your thoughts? Discuss in the comments!