I thought the phrase “thorn in my side” was a polite way to say that someone is a “pain in the ass.” A big nuisance. A major inconvenience. As when a supervisor says, “Jane’s a good welder, but she always has issues with her co-workers. She’s a thorn in my side.”
According to Bon Jovi, a thorn in my side is a person who reminds us of a painful event or thorny relationship. He sings, “You can test my faith, but you can’t take my pride. Thorn in my side. Thorn in my side.” http://www.songlyrics.com/bon-jovi/thorn-in-my-side-lyrics/
Back when Clinton was playing with cigars, and then again when Tiger Woods was playing around (as opposed to a round); I searched for an explanation of why a person at the top of his game, figuratively and literally, would sabotage himself (or herself) by purposefully jabbing a thorn in his own side?
Then I came upon the metaphor in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NIV)
7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul said, “…to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh.” Being humble is the opposite of being conceited.
For the boss, his thorn in his side reminds him he’s got more to learn about bossing. His rank in the factory doesn’t make him immune from challenges.
For Bon Jovi’s protagonist in the song, his thorn in his side reminds him he is still a caring (albeit proud) person.
What about Bill and Tiger? Is it possible that as they realized they were growing massively conceited they jabbed themselves with a giant thorn to inject a dose of humility?
Is a self-inflicted thorn a deep-seated psychological antidote to too high of an opinion of one’s rank, ability and importance?
A thorny problem knocks us back, gives us a chance to remember where all things come from.