Public and Private Pain

We sat in the dining area of Colinas Mall on Sunday afternoon. At a table at the edge of the area sat a family of four, dad, mom, daughter, and son.
As we wound down our meal, the discussion at the family’s table heated up. For about 30 minutes, the wife lambasted the husband in front of the kids, in sight and hearing of shoppers and munchers.
She yelled, she gestured wildly, she pointed her finger in her husband’s face, she yanked at their little son standing nearby.
After unloading both barrels and more, she grabbed the young boy and marched off, leaving their daughter sobbing and her husband looking dazed.
My heart went out especially to the children. The daughter, about seven years old, appeared terrified.
One can only imagine the problems that led up to the woman’s public dumping on her husband.
Each of us carries some sharp pain from past humiliations or crises.
Sometimes the pain, once public, becomes deeply buried in private agony.
Taking a line from Captain Kirk in one of the Star Trek movies, our pain makes us who we are. Or, better, our reaction to that pain determines who we become.
Indeed, our public and private pains determine much of how we see the world and react to others.
* A child grows up with parents who fought constantly and decides never to fight, argue, or raise her voice, making her incapable of ever resolving differences.
* A son with an alcoholic father who beats his wife and terrifies his children learns to make excuses for bad behavior.
* Childish whining and manipulation works with parents, but as an adult, he discovers it closes doors to family and friends and brings him to divorce.
* A teacher berates a student for “coloring outside the lines” and squelches creativity.
The possibilities for pain in our lives is, it seems, endless. The more sensitive personalities suffer more, but no one is exempt from suffering.
As adults, we have the opportunity to look at our pain and grow from it.
* We understand that parents, teachers, and others in authority are fallible and weak. We learn to look at others with more compassion.
* We discover that no one has all the answers to the problems of relationships, dealing with life’s difficulties, and coming out on top.
* The pain of experiencing sin damaging or destroying a family’s life often shows us a path of avoiding destructive behaviors and can set us on the road to discovering healthy substitutes.
* God’s plan really works. When each fulfills the role God set in the family, joy, peace, and love reign. Even when the difficulties come knocking.
I wanted to throw a blanket over that table at the edge of the mall’s dining area, to shield the unhappy family and us from the shame of their public pain. I wanted to whisk the children away to a safe place where they would not have to hear the harsh words.
But I couldn’t. Each one will have to live with that scene, and their memory will deal with it in different ways, processing it to make themselves a weaker or stronger person for having lived through it.
I pray their public pain, soon to be buried deep in their subconscience, will one day serve to lead them to right choices and a righteous life. To lead them to Him who has the word of healing and the embrace of love.
“But I am afflicted and in pain; let your salvation, O God, set me on high!” (Psalm 69:29, ESV).


Each of us carries some sharp pain from past humiliations or crises.

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