The act of relieving pain is alluring to many of us. We see someone hurting and we want to provide some help, something that will take away the discomfort we perceive. In and of itself, this impulse is laudable. It has the potential to heal and comfort. But, more often than we care to admit, the impulse to relieve pain derives from our own self-interest -- to relieve our own guilt, our own discomfort, to meet some need within ourselves to be needed, helpful, effective.
If our lives are to become a source of true health and healing in the world, there comes a time when we must learn to distinguish between our interests and the interests of others. Until we learn to do so, we live under the delusion that all of our impulses to help are pure and all our motives to relieve pain are true. Under this delusion we have very little idea what effect our behavior actually has on the one in pain, nor do we really care, because we get what we need from the transaction -- the relief of guilt, comfort, the feeling of being needed, helpful, effective.
To act from within this delusion, our Father Benedict understands, is as insidious and destructive to community life as the faults that warrant excommunication. When I cannot resist inserting myself into a healing process that is being directed by a wise physician, I jeopardize the effectiveness of the cure. As Sr. Joan writes, "It is not supportive to take away a person's heart medicine simply because they do not like the taste of it. It is not supportive to fail to set a broken leg simply because the setting will be painful."