The Problem With Masking The Pain

This past week I’ve been visiting my dad in hospital. He was admitted to the hospital on Friday for chest and back pains.

They thought he may be having a heart attack or another issue with the heart. The was good reason for this assumption. He is almost 85 years old.

Image by Ben Fredericson

Tests were run. The results were examined. And they decided it wasn’t his heart that was the issue.

Yet my dad’s pain remained. He still had symptoms that something was wrong.

Chest pains. Back pains. Stomach pains.

The doctors weren’t sure what it could be. Ultrasounds and more were ordered.

They guessed his gastrointestinal tract may have been inflamed. More tests were run and they came back negative.

By Monday my family was getting frustrated. The pain had let up some but it was still there and we had no answers.

They decided to run a test called a hida scan. The hida scan gave a glimmer of what could be wrong.

His gall bladder was not working properly.

On Tuesday, he was wheeled into the operating room and had the gall bladder removed. When we were able to visit him in his hospital room he looked much better. The real issue had been discovered.

In total, my dad had been in and out of the hospital three times in the last year. Most likely due to the gall bladder being infected. And yet it was never fully diagnosed until Monday.

What does this have to do with leadership? Quite a bit actually.

  • We give ourselves the wrong diagnosis:
    When things go wrong, it can be hard to analyze the situation. The truth may be that we did something wrong.

    We then shift the blame to a superficial issue. Take care of that and it seems like the problem was resolved.

    It wasn’t. We just put a band-aid on the real problem.

    Instead, look at the reality of the situation and face the facts. If things need to change, change them. Don’t keep putting band-aids on the problem.

  • We mask our true hurts:
    My dad’s bad gall bladder was hidden because the symptoms appeared to be that of a heart issue or a gastrointestinal problem. It was hidden so well the surgeon didn’t want to believe it was the gall bladder until after the surgery.

    During your time as a leader, hurts will come. A close friend may say hurtful words. Or a team member may try to take control.

    You’ll be tempted to cover them up. Filling your life with guilty pleasures or selfish delights. Just trying to mask the true hurts.

    If you don’t deal with the real hurt, your life will become messy. You’ll get easily frustrated. You’ll snap for no reason. You’ll blame others.

    Deal with the true hurt and be set free.

  • We don’t dig deep enough:
    This was my dad’s third trip to the hospital. Each time he had the same symptoms and the doctors had sent him home after clearing his heart.

    The problem was they didn’t dig deep enough. They ran just enough tests to rule out the heart. Had the ran all of the available tests they would have concluded he had a bad gall bladder.

    Many times we will only skim the surface on the problems that we face. Taking the quick and easy route and sending others on their way.

    Instead, take the time and fully examine the situation. Ask the proper questions. Probe and prod until you get to the root of the problem.

    Only then will the problem get resolved.

The trouble is that we often hide our pains from ourselves and others. Stop doing that! It only drags out the process of healing and makes you hurt longer than needed.

Examine your life and see if there are any areas of pain that you have masked with smaller problems. If you have, resolve to take the steps to properly address the true area of pain.

Question: What pain have you masked to prevent facing the true issue? Why do you think you did this? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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