That’s the word we humans have learned to utter when the hammer hits our thumb instead of the nail, when we lose our balance and tumble to the floor, when we catch the corner of the nightstand with our knee in the middle of the night, when we sneeze after a surgery and before the stitches have come out, when there’s pain.
It’s an Americanism apparently. According to dictionary.com it popped up in common usage in the 1830’s. It’s perhaps more socially acceptable than other words that could be unleashed in response to pain especially if in a public place. Clearly, it’s natural for living creatures to react to something that doesn’t feel good… babies cry, dogs yelp, pigs squeal, humans bellow. Even the Apostle Paul thousands of years ago said, “We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labor pains up until now.” (Romans 8:22)
Pain, of course, is not just physical but also deeply emotional. We know the ache of loss and loneliness, the sting of rejection and betrayal. And pain seems to be inseparable from love, as famously noted by the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson: “ ‘Tis better to have loved and lost/Than never to have loved at all.”
Ouch! Even the extraterrestrial creature in Steven Spielberg’s 1982 classic movie learned the meaning of the word. And remarkably E.T.’s understanding shifted as the film footage rolled on… first, a bleeding cut but then, a breaking heart. We who love know how it hurts to say goodbye to one dearly loved. And God knows… and bears… the “ouch” with us. And God refuses to stop loving… will we?