There is no need for anyone to be an Einstein to know that pain comes with the territory. Whether it is a stubbed toe or anxiety over a medical diagnosis, pain defines our humanness more than anything else. We are not in Eden anymore.

We do all kinds of things with pain: ignore it, deny it, wallow in it, medicate it, play through it, bring it to a doctor. Most of us will do anything to avoid pain, even hurt like hell, because the pain that is known — simply because it is known — seems better than the pain that if unknown.

It is important to realize, however, that pain is one of the best teachers we will ever have. Not popular, to be sure, or sought-after, like most truly dedicated teachers, but unbelievably effective nonetheless in helping us live better lives. Whether physical or psychological, pain is there to be grown through. Like all good students, however, we, in our growing, need to work very hard to grasp pain’s lessons.

To be healed, most pains need to be touched, that is, acknowledged, accepted and treated. Sounds simple enough and it usually is, when it comes to physical pain. Psychological pain, however, is another matter. Many of us live years with grudges, resentments and lingering, unforgiven hurts that pulse like migraines in our psyches. We do not realize that when we bury a pain, we bury it alive. Somehow we find a way to distance ourselves from such hurting, even though the hurting is still there. Only by touching those hurts will they ever go away.

Talking about pain, particularly the psychological kind, is a way of touching it. We can learn a great deal about life –- and self – in the process of talking it through with a therapist, sharing it with a friend or taking it to the one who caused it. While pain may be a necessary part of growing, it is not necessary to live with it.

Still, it somehow seems easier to live with resentment or hurt than to go to the source of either and say, “Can we talk?” It feels like opening old wounds, but it is, in fact, touching wounds that have never healed. The lessons our pains have to teach us remain unlearned until we touch them.

Since pain comes with the territory, we need to manage the quality of our lives so that our hurts are always at a minimum. Confronting the unknown pain that keeps us hurting so unnecessarily can teach many of us much about forgiveness while helping us discover that unknown pain is rarely as bad as we imagine and that it can even be healing.