When I was in eighth grade, a friend tried to convince me that country music was the music of the future, but I would have none of it. By the time I was in college, I had caught the fever, and I remember making a late night run with another dear friend to grab Faith Hill’s latest CD. Now I just download and pandora and listen to the radio, and the music keeps a coming at an amazingly rapid pace. I have to admit though that every year I get a little less taken with country music. I think it has kind of lost it’s soul and pursued ratings, and it makes me sad to see those heartfelt ramblings of Johnny Cash and June Carter left in the dust. But this week when I was listening to the radio, country music hit a new low for me. A bright young star sang what I think might be the most dangerous song on the radio.
Hunter Hayes sings the song Invisible. It’s a catchy ballad that talks about how we are not invisible, but the message does not stop there. It goes on to talk about how our pain will become invisible as life moves on. I realize that he probably recorded this song hoping to encourage people who are having a hard time, but when I heard it, I wanted to cry. I feel bad taking Hunter on. He seems nice, and he does awesome things like fight childhood hunger, and he’s had some other great songs, and I know he’s just trying to make it like the rest of us. But I also think that songs get into people’s hearts and change us. And this is not the kind of change we need.
I hung with the message of bullied teens in school hallways and trying to be different and listening to the people who have been there, and then I got to the chorus.
Trust the one
Who’s been where you are wishing all it was
Was sticks and stones
Those words cut deep but they don’t mean you’re all alone
And you’re not invisible,
Hear me out,
There’s so much more to life than what you’re feeling now
Someday you’ll look back on all these days
And all this pain is gonna be invisible.
Oh, I hurt. This song is dangerous because it’s kind of right, and it’s easy to hum along and get caught up in truth that you are not invisible—a great message to remember. But between all the melody and the strumming, the song rounds out with a stark untruth that your pain is gonna be invisible. And there I pause.
Your pain is not invisible, and all the humming in the world won’t make it so. Let me say it again. Your pain, my pain, anyone’s pain does not become invisible, no matter how much time goes by. It might lessen or fade, but it does not become invisible. I know that we all wish that we could wish away pain, that we could just forget about it, that we could outgrow high school or that hurtful relationship or yesterday and put it all behind us. I know that we want to act like nothing hurts us, that we can just walk it off, that we are stronger. But we can’t.
Bodies scar and so do hearts. If we pretend that they do not, we teach ourselves and our friends and our children that words do not matter and being hurt is something that we should shake off. We may not mean to, but we teach those who bully and those who inflict pain that it’s actually kind of ok because the hurt will go away. We teach them that what they do to others doesn’t really matter because the pain will become invisible to the ones they hurt and their victims will move on.
And this is really, really dangerous. Words ping against people’s hearts and shape us. What we do and say and how we interact with those around us draws us into the process of creation. Our words and actions impact others, landing on their hearts and minds and leaving marks. We mirror what people see, and when they look at us, if they see hurt, that hurt will be lodged in their heart. And that matters. A lot. Because it becomes a part of who they are.
But not only do we teach the inflictors things that just aren’t true, we also teach those who are on the receiving end of the hurt that their hurt doesn’t really matter. That they will get over it. That life is bigger than this moment that they are in right now. But it’s not. It most definitely is not. When you are 8 and you are in a moment, it is your whole world. It is one of the moments that presses into your soul and shapes you. It is a moment that tells you something about yourself that you either embrace or push away. And that moment most certainly does matter, in very big ways.
There is no avoiding painful moments. People who are fortunate enough to have loving families and supportive friends and the most amazing teachers have people who do their best to mitigate those moments of pain, but sooner or later, we all come front and center with an interaction or a moment that hurts. And sometimes it’s tiny and sometimes it’s huge. And some of them we forget, but some we remember. Think for a moment about the most hurtful experience you ever had in school. How does it feel? For me there is still a little sting. Even though that was long ago in the land of cassette tapes and walkmen, I have not forgotten. And I won’t. Because pain has a special way of imprinting with indelible ink. And just because we don’t see it right away, if we look closely, we can see its scar.
And this is not to say that there is not healing. This is not to say that we do not grow beyond the pain and come to terms with truth and become better, stronger people on the journey. But that is a choice. And it takes looking at the scars with their jagged little edges and their bumps and deciding to forgive and live beyond the scar that is still there even when we live in a way that does not let it define us.
But we cannot teach people that their pain is invisible. Not now. Not ever. We cannot encourage words that excuse inflicting hurt, and we cannot encourage words that tell people that this moment they’re in right now is not important because it will go away. If that were the case, this very moment we are in right now wouldn’t really matter, and we all know it does. Because life is a beautiful collection of moments, the good, the bad, the funny, the tearful, the crazy, the quiet, the fast, and the slow. And we need to protect life. We need to protect hearts and souls and do our best to minimize wounds and work to heal the ones that make it through the shields of love onto the hearts of the people around us. Because minimizing hurt, minimizes all of us. But working to protect and create a world full of love makes us all a little bit more whole.
And maybe somewhere in the midst of protecting and shielding and binding up wounds, we will live out the truth in the first part of the song. The truth that requires that we all pitch in and open our eyes and look around and see, so that no one has to be reminded that he or she is not invisible.