He stood there in the grocery aisle, husband and food cart driver, staring into space. I noticed him partly because of the precariously-balanced load he was pushing, but mostly because of his empty expression. The empathy in my heart registered numbness.
I picked up a pound of my favorite coffee and noticed the aisle was getting a little crowded. That’s about when I noticed his wife, but within seconds everyone in the aisle noticed her. She began scolding him in a harsh-toned Spanglish, and by her hand gestures and the few words I understood she was saying something to the effect of, “I told you not to bring the cart down this aisle! Why didn’t you stay out in the main aisle like I told you to? You are so stupid!”
He never raised his head, just pushed the cart slowly out into the main aisle. She never stopped berating him, and as soon as they were out of the way of other shoppers, she lit into him full-force. I loosely gathered that she was bringing up all manner of other issues and mixing them in with his cart faux pas.
What struck me was how he never even looked up. Never said a word. Never even really acknowledged her shrieking, her contorted expression, her biting words. The rest of us noticed, and as another shopper walked past me down the aisle we exchanged a quick “Yikes!” expression before she hurried away.
What makes a woman treat her husband this way? What brokenness lives in her heart that she must attack and beat down and destroy another human heart—specifically one joined to hers (presumably) in holy matrimony?
I couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of loss, of regret, of sadness at what their life together must be like. I hadn’t moved very far from that spot when my sweet Steve came around the corner and found me near tears. Swallowing past the lump in my throat I briefly explained what I’d witnessed in hushed tones lest she still be within earshot. He put his arm around me and we moved on in search of Cheerios.
I haven’t been able to shake that feeling of loss, and it has left me with a burning question in my spirit.
What if we could all feel what another is feeling when receiving our words?
What if picturing the likely response made our words breathe healing and repair and hope instead of inflicting pain and reducing others to a puddle of shame and defeat?
What if we just took a moment to think before we speak—or write?
Have you ever treated anyone the way that wife treated her husband? Maybe your own husband, or your child, or a friend, or a neighbor? Maybe it was a store clerk or your dry cleaner or a parent.
Might you join me, dear friend, in resolving to think before we speak, to love and speak life with our words?
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A Write Where It Hurts column post