Finding Strength in Vulnerability: How Emotional Expression Can Ease Our Pain

A groundbreaking study published in the American Pain Society’s Journal of Pain in April 2015 reveals something about pain and endurance that might just shift our perspective on vulnerability and emotional honesty. According to the study titled “On the Importance of Being Vocal: Saying ‘Ow’ Improves Pain Tolerance,” individuals who vocalize their discomfort tend to endure pain for a longer period than those who choose silence. This discovery challenges the age-old notion that strength is synonymous with silence and that the most resilient among us are those who suffer in stoic quietude.

In grappling with the trials life throws our way, from the minor irritations to the profound sorrows, we often believe that the bravest response is to bear our burdens quietly. Society admires the silent warriors, those who face adversity without a word of complaint. However, this study suggests that there might be more courage in expressing our pain than in suppressing it.

My personal journey through grief has been a testament to the complex nature of coping and endurance. There are days so heavy that merely getting out of bed feels like an insurmountable challenge. On these days, the conventional wisdom of “powering through” feels inadequate, and the silence around my pain feels more like a prison than a badge of honor.

Interestingly, the Bible offers a model for dealing with pain that aligns with these scientific findings. In the shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:35, we are told simply, “Jesus wept.” This powerful statement of vulnerability comes in the context of profound grief at the loss of a friend. Jesus, in His humanity, did not shy away from expressing His sorrow openly. Moreover, the passage goes on to describe Jesus as being “once more deeply moved,” suggesting that His grief was not a fleeting emotion but a deeply felt experience that He did not hesitate to show.

This Biblical example challenges the notion that faith requires a stoic face to the world, that as believers, we must navigate our valleys without outwardly acknowledging our pain. Jesus’ response to loss and heartache demonstrates that there is holiness in our tears and that our faith is made no weaker by our willingness to say “ouch” and to mourn openly.

So, what if embracing our vulnerability could actually be our greatest strength? What if, instead of viewing tears and expressions of pain as signs of weakness, we saw them as evidence of our perseverance and resilience? The act of vocalizing our pain, of admitting that we are hurting, can be the very thing that enables us to carry on.

Let us take courage from both scientific insight and the example of Christ. Let us not fear the ugly cries, the moments of raw, unfiltered sorrow. For in acknowledging our pain, we do not diminish our strength—instead, we affirm our humanity and our trust in a God who weeps with us. In our vulnerability, we find a shared strength, a common ground of endurance and hope. Here’s to saying “ouch” more often and finding that, in our openness, we are not alone.