Thursday, October 2, 2014

The public issue of private pain

I've seen it happen numerous times both in others and in myself - when we have a very personal and private hurt it often doesn't stay that way and instead spills over into our public actions and attitudes. Therefore the childless woman gripes about the way our culture dotes on women with functioning ovaries and bottlefeeding moms snipe about how indiscreet and in your face breastfeeding moms are. It's probably one reason why we have articles like "15 reasons it's better as a single person" and "25 ways parenting sucks." I know that before I had Jacob I had times where I really struggled with friends having babies and going to baby showers and the like. It didn't seem fair, and I didn't really want to show up and smile and then go home and mope on the couch in one of those totally explicable inexplicable bad moods. It's hard when just doing to the mall can touch a raw nerve twenty times in as many minutes, and it's reasonable to mentally throw up barriers between us and our hurt.

The problem is that these barriers often appear as censure and disdain for the blessings of others. It's natural that a mom who had trouble breastfeeding should dislike seeing other women around her at church or at the store breastfeeding their babies with apparent ease. Much more comforting to the ego to create rules around breastfeeding and then censure other women for failing to follow them - "They could go somewhere else." "At least use a cover." "Nobody needs to know you're doing that." So now we have a private limitation causing a public issue over how a mother should or should not feed her baby. The public face is outrage, but the private source is guilt or disappointment or some other wound.

As a group this has some fairly serious ramifications. When people lash out because of their wounds, they aren't merely revealing their own damaged hearts. In many cases they are, directly or indirectly, tearing at the foundations of normal life. Marriage, birth, and breastfeeding are all pretty darn normal and foundational. They are also areas in which women can experience tremendous pain - some physical and much of it emotional. When that pain leads us to sneer at what God has called good we actually end up prolonging our pain because it ends up arraying us against God. I think it's a wonderful thing to be honest with God and with a close friend or two about your struggles. I don't think that a childless woman should have to pretend that every new baby shower invitation she receives fills her with unremitting glee. When things hurt they hurt, and we shouldn't pretend that they don't. However, the reason these things hurt us is that they are a good denied, and it hurts to be reminded of the good that's been denied us. There were times after Jacob's birth that I quite literally felt sick every time I saw something on Facebook about the value of skin to skin care after birth because that's a time I never had and never will with him. That doesn't mean that skin to skin bonding after birth is a bad thing though! That which hurts us is often very good, and I think that when call good the things that God calls good we actually come closer to healing than when we try to toss up barriers between them and ourselves because we are coming closer to the heart and will of God.

So what should we do?

I think that as a culture we need to start being ok with people being hurt. We need to admit that life is hard and sometimes other people's blessings can a stumbling block to the hurting, and as hurting people we need to admit that sometimes other people get the good we so desperately crave and seek to support them anyway. Pain is pain, and good is good. We mustn't let our personal hurts turn us against and make us despise the normal path of life and redemption that God has laid out for His people.

And that's about all I know on this topic.

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