Home » Glennon Doyle Melton: First the Pain, Then the Rising (Transcript)

Glennon Doyle Melton: First the Pain, Then the Rising (Transcript)

Glennon Doyle Melton at SuperSoul Sessions on Oprah Winfrey Network

Full text of author Glennon Doyle Melton’s talk titled “First the Pain, Then the Rising” at SuperSoul Sessions on Oprah Winfrey Network.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here: First the Pain, Then the Rising by Glennon Doyle Melton


Oprah Winfrey:

When I first read Glennon Doyle Melton’s book “Love Warrior”, I felt like I knew this girl. She was funny and she was wise, and she felt like a friend.

To me, Glennon spoke for so many people, who don’t feel brave enough to speak their own truth. And after sitting down with her on “Super Soul Sunday,” I now call her a “Super Soul Visionary,” she is. Glennon Doyle Melton’s session is titled “First The Pain, Then The Rising.”

Glennon Doyle Melton:

Hey, babies! Hello, Super Soulers! Holy cow, here we are.

Okay, so I have a couple questions for us today. The first one is this.

  • How would our lives and our relationships and our world transform if we stopped being so afraid of pain?
  • What if we just once and for all decided that we were strong enough for the pain in our lives?
  • So instead of hiding from it, we just rushed straight toward it and allowed our pain to become our power?

So, I’m a person who hid from pain for the first half of my life. When I was 10 years old, I looked out at the scary world and I decided that I was too weak for it. So, I dropped out of life and into bulimia, and then alcoholism. Until I was 25 and found myself on that bathroom floor, shaking and holding that positive pregnancy test and finding myself decide that (if) I wanted to be a mother.

But at that point, I’d been an addict for 15 years, so I didn’t even know how to be a human being. So I decided that my best bet would be to just fake it — to just look around for other women who seemed to be “Adulting” successfully and just copy them.

So, my criteria was that I looked for women who were wearing scarves. Right? Because I feel like if you are the type of woman who gets up early enough to, like, stop and look in the mirror and be like, “Self, you know what this outfit needs, is a scarf.” And then you have bought a scarf at some point and you know where to find said scarf and once you find the scarf you know how to do that tying thing, then you are just crushing life, you know?

So, I became a scarf wearer, and I became a wife and a mother and a writer and an activist because I thought that growing up meant becoming things, right? And then 12 years later, my husband told me that he’d been unfaithful to me our entire marriage. And that’s when my un-becoming began.

So, I went back to therapy and I sat with my therapist and I said, “Look, I’ve never been in this much pain in my life, and I need you to help me figure out how not to waste it. I have to use this pain somehow”. And so, I started working really hard in therapy and I let my therapist take me back all the way till I was 10 years old, and I dropped into bulimia. And here’s what we discovered together.

So, we’re all born whole, right? We’re trinities, just like God — body, mind, and spirit. And the healthiest of us live out:

  • lives of the body – physical lives,
  • lives of the mind – intellectual lives, and
  • lives of the soul – spiritual lives.

But what happened to me so young is that our culture gave me so many confusing and objectifying messages about my body that I just started disassociating from my body. Right! Because good girls don’t desire, good girls don’t hunger, good girls don’t even grow. But I did hunger, and I did desire, and I did grow.

And so I started to become ashamed of my body, and you can’t love and claim anything that you’re ashamed of. So, I just voted my body off the island of myself. Right?

And then, a similar thing happened to my then-husband Craig — when he was 10 years old — well,

when he was born, he was whole too — body, mind, and spirit. But while the world tells girls that good girls don’t hungry, don’t desire, the world tells little boys that brave boys don’t feel, don’t cry, don’t make themselves vulnerable in any way, and so Craig did cry, and he did feel. And so he started to become ashamed of his emotions, so he voted his emotional self off the island, right!

So, you see, we’ve got women trying to love men with our minds, but they don’t live there, and we’ve got men trying to love women with their bodies, but we don’t live there.

And it’s like everything that we’ve learned about femininity and masculinity makes it nearly impossible for real men and real women to be fully human with each other, which makes it nearly impossible for us to really see each other, which, of course, makes it impossible for us to really love each other. And I know these things are huge generalizations, but I’m just saying them because they’re always true. Okay.

So, my therapist said, “Listen, Glennon, I don’t know if we’re gonna save your marriage, but we’ve got to save you. We’ve got to host a reunion for you. We’ve got to, like, vote your body back on the island.”

And I said, “That sounds really hard. Do you have any more pills?”

And she said, “No more pills, Glennon. We’re going to do the work.”

We’re gonna do the work, Glennon. So…hate the work.

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So, for me, part of the work was to go to yoga, okay. So, yoga ended up saving me, but I hated it at first ’cause it was so woo, woo, you know? So, one morning, during the separation, I was just in so much despair that I was actually scared of myself. Like, I felt like if I started crying again, I just might never stop, right.

So I picked myself up off the bed and I went to yoga, and I walked into the yoga studio, and my instructor — my regular instructor — wasn’t there. So, the receptionist pointed me towards this new room. And I sat down in the room, and, you guys, it was one million, billion degrees in the room. And I was so annoyed because my life was so hard already, and now I didn’t have any air-conditioning, right?

And then, the instructor walks in and she says…“Welcome to Hot Yoga.”

And I was like, “Holy hell, this is on purpose.

Like, they’re doing this on purpose. And then she says the following, like Oprah, “Now we are going to set our intentions for the class.”

And I’m like, “Okay!?”

 So, the first lady, okay, on the most no-good, very bad, terrible day of my life, has the nerve to say this sentence — “My intention is to radiate sunlight to all sentient beings”.

And everybody else had some crap like that, and all I could do is glare at them and think, “Well, my intention is not stab all of you to death.” To death!

But when they got around to me, I was already crying, and I said, “Look, my intention is just to stay on this mat and try to handle whatever is about to happen here without running out the door.”

And the room got really quiet. And the instructor looked directly at me and she said, “Okay, honey. You just be still.”

And I was like, all right, well, that sounds easy. I can do that, right?

But, you guys, it wasn’t easy. It was actually 90 of the hardest minutes of my life, because what I found out, as I sat there, is that I’d been running so hard and so fast to avoid the confusion and pain of my past and the white-hot rage and shame of my betrayal and my terror for the future of my babies and my family and myself, that hadn’t let…I hadn’t felt any of it, right?

And so, for this 90 minutes, I just had to sit there and surrender to all of the pain and fear of all of it, and I think it was the first 90 minutes in which I allowed myself to feel what it means to be fully human without running out the door. It felt like it might kill me. But it didn’t.

And we got to the end of the yoga class and I was just lying on my mat and I was just soaking wet from tears and sweat, like — like it had been some kind of organic baptism. And the instructor walks over to me and she leans over into my ear and she says, “Honey, what you just survived…That was the journey of the warrior”.

And I thought, “Oh, my God. Yoga is so weird. What? Like, god. Whatever.”

So, I just, like, got my mat and I got into my van, and I drove home, and on the way home, you guys have these crazy déjà vu moments. So, I picked up this book off my coffee table that I’d reading, and it flipped open to this page — it was a book called “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chodron — and I opened up to this page and read this paragraph — “If you can sit with the hot loneliness for 1.6 seconds today, when yesterday, you could only sit with it for 1, then that is the journey of the warrior.”

And I just sat on the floor and read that and read that and read that, and I thought, “Oh, my God! That is what I’ve been doing since I was 10 years old — trying to outrun the hot loneliness”.

So, when I was 10 years old was when I first started having painful human feelings, like fear and anger and unworthiness and doubt and unbelonging. But since in our culture, we only talk about the value of happy, shiny feelings, I thought there was something wrong with me.

I didn’t know that these were just normal human feelings that everybody had and that they had something to teach me. I thought they were something to hide or get rid of. And the amazing thing about our world is that the second you start feeling your hot loneliness, the world starts showing you “easy” buttons to get out of it.

So, do you guys remember those staples commercials where things would get stressful and then a red “easy” button would pop up and you could hit it and be transported out of your pain into this stress-free place? Well, we all love “easy” buttons, right? We all have them — food, booze, sex, shopping, snark, denial.

Now, everybody’s is scroll, scroll, scroll, right? The second we start feeling our hot loneliness, we’re like, “You know, what I need to do? I need to check on that guy I knew in second grade and see how his trip to Bermuda is going.”

And we feel so much better, right?

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We’re numb, but the problem is, when we transport ourselves out of our hot loneliness, we miss all of our transformation because everything that we need to become the people we are meant to become next is actually inside the hot loneliness of now, right?

So, when we “easy” button our way out, we are like caterpillars who jump out of the cocoon right before we would’ve become butterflies. Because pain is actually not a hot potato. It’s a travelling professor, and it knocks on everybody’s door and the wisest ones say, “Come in and sit down and don’t leave until you’ve taught me what I need to know.”

We have it all wrong. We are afraid of pain, but we were made for pain. We need to be afraid of the “easy” buttons, right, because the journey of the love warrior is to rush towards her pain and allow her pain to become her power. If we stopped fearing pain, you guys, we would become such better parents.

So, I was at this parenting convention recently, and this woman raised her hand and she said, “Glennon…my family is broken and there’s nothing I can do to fix it. It’s done, and my little boy is in so much pain, and every day, I look at him and I think, ‘Oh, my God, I had one job. My one job was to protect him from pain, and I couldn’t do it.’ And I feel like such a failure”.

And I said, “Okay, hold on a second. Can you give me three words that you would use to describe the kind of man you’re trying to raise?”

And she said, “I want him to be kind, and I want him to be wise, and I want him to be resilient.”

I said, “Okay, then. What is it in a human life that creates kindness and wisdom and resilience? It’s pain.” That’s it. It’s the struggle. It’s not having nothing to overcome — it’s overcoming and overcoming and overcoming.

So, is it possible that we are trying to protect our children from the one thing that will allow them to become the people we dream they’ll be? And is it possible that we all feel like failures because we have the wrong job description?

Because it was never our job, nor our right, to protect our children from their pain. Our job is to point them directly towards it and say, “Baby, that was meant for you. And I see your fear, and it’s real, and it’s big, but I see your courage and it’s bigger.” Right?

And, you guys, if we stopped fearing pain, we would become such better friends. Every day, I hear from a woman to whom the worst has happened. She’s lost a spouse, she’s lost a baby, she’s lost, she’s lost. And then on top of that loss, inevitably, comes a second loss, which is that she loses all of her friends. Her friends just fall away, one at a time.

And I’ve come to believe that that is not because her friends were bad people. It’s because her friends have the wrong job description. Because if you ask any of them why they stopped showing up, they’ll say something like this — “I just didn’t know what to say to fix it.” As if grief is something to be fixed! Right?

Grief is holy, just like joy is. Grief is just the price of love. Right? It’s the receipt we hold in the air to say to the world, “Look, I paid the price… For Love.” And it’s often the only thing a woman has left to prove she loved. And the last thing she wants is for somebody to come in and try to snatch it from her, right?

We don’t need friends who can fix our pain. We need friends who are brave enough to be still with pain — to let us have it, right? Because friendship — friendship is just two people not being God together, right? This is friendship. That’s it.

And, you guys, if we stop fearing our pain, we would finally find our purpose in our tribe.

So, this is what I hear every day — “I can’t go there. It’ll break my heart. I can’t meet her. It’ll break my heart. I can’t read that. It’ll break my heart.” But heartbreak is not something to be avoided.

Heartbreak is the greatest clue of our lives, right, because what breaks your heart is different than what breaks your heart. For you, it’s racism, and for you, it’s hunger, and for you, it’s war, and for you, it’s animal cruelty.

And what happens when you find that thing that breaks your heart open and makes you — makes it hard to breathe, and you don’t “easy” button your way out, but you let it be your professor, it guides you towards the people who are doing that world-healing work in the world, right?

And there you find your purpose, and then the bonus is, that there you find your tribe. Because there’s no bond greater than the bond that happens between people doing the same world-healing work together.

You guys and girls and women, if we stopped fearing our pain, we would heal our nation, okay?

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We are in a sweaty-ass yoga class right now. And we have got to commit to staying on our mat because everything we need to become the country we were meant to be, to become great for the first time for all of us, right, is inside the hot loneliness of our collective pain right now. Okay?

So, I need to talk to the white women for a minute, okay? We’re going to talk, okay?

So, I know that many of us are feeling alone and ignored and threatened and abused, and we’re feeling like our bodies are being threatened and that our children’s education is at risk and we can be grabbed at any minute and our degradation and our objectification and our discrimination has become normalized and accepted in ways that are chilling. And this is painful.

But what we need to remember is that this is just a touch of the pain that so many marginalized people in this country have been feeling for ages, right? For black people and brown people and trans people and gay people and Muslim people and Native Americans and poor people, right?  This is just a touch of what they’ve been feeling. And what sucks is that it took us being personally affected to finally show up. Right?

And so, we cannot show up for the movement and say, “Here we are,” until we say, “We are so damn sorry it took us so long.” Right?

And then, when we are speaking against–we better not speak against misogyny if in the same breath we’re not also speaking against transphobia and homophobia and racism and classism and poverty in the same breath because this is one fight. It always has been.

And so, when women say to me — when white women say to me, “How do I lead? Where do I begin?” I say, “You do not lead, and you don’t begin anything!” The fight for civil rights is not new. We’re just new to it, right? And the generals of justice have always been and will always be the women of color, right?

So, what you do is, you learn about Shirley Chisholm and you learn about Maya Angelou and you learn, and you learn, and you learn, and then you learn about and follow Ava Duvernay and Alicia Garza and Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour — you look at how they’re fighting, and then you fight like they’re fighting. Right?

Because if our white feminism does not become intersectional, then it will be nothing.

But the beauty of this moment, you guys, is that we were asleep and separate, and now we’re awake and united. And our collective pain can become our collective power. It already is!

Look around, look around, how lucky we are to be alive right now!

Okay. I’m almost done. I’m eight minutes over. So! Listen.

The journey of the love warrior is to stop hiding from her pain and instead turn directly towards it, right, and March right into it. And you don’t have to trust me that that works because every great spiritual leader who has ever graced our earth has taught the same thing — that you need your pain, right?

  • Whether it was Buddha, whose father tried to protect him from all suffering, but he had to leave and experience all of it before he could find enlightenment.
  • Or my favorite, Joan of Arc who, at 14, led her people straight into the battle to find victory, right?
  • Or Westley from “The Princess Bride,” who said…..“Life is pain, Highness, and anyone who tells you differently is selling you something.”
  • Or Jesus, you guys — I, like, worship the guy, okay.

And the night before the crucifixion, (so) he had like these 12 friends and one of them was like really slow, okay — his name was Peter. I like Peter. And he never knew what was going on, but he finally figured out the night before the crucifixion what was about to happen.

So, he goes up to Jesus and he’s like, “Dude, um…So here’s what I heard — they’re going to kill you tomorrow. You’re God, so (Exnay on the rusifixionkay.) I feel like… let’s just run. Let’s get out of here,” okay.

So, basically Peter is, like, “easy” button. Denial, right? And what did Jesus say?

He said, “No, get behind me. That pain was meant for me.”

There is no glory except straight through your story. And there is no resurrection without the crucifixion first. All of our problems come from trying to rise before we surrender to our own crucifixion. For us, in our personal lives, for our relationships, for our world, the pattern is and always will be first, the pain, then the rising.

First our pain, then our rising.

Okay, I’m done.


Download This Transcript as PDF here: Glennon Doyle Melton_ First the Pain, Then the Rising (Transcript)

Resources for Further Reading: 

Lessons from the Mental Hospital by Glennon Doyle Melton (Transcript)

Pain, Empathy and Public Health: Amy Baxter at TEDxPeachtree (Transcript)

Transcript: How Mindfulness Meditation Redefines Pain, Happiness & Satisfaction: Dr. Kasim Al-Mashat at TEDxSFU

Transcript: How Love Turns Pain into Purpose by Steven Hayes


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