It’s a phrase we’ve all either used or heard. We talk of having “skin in the game.” The term can be used in almost any context. The meaning is simple enough. This time the problem is personal. This one is hurting me.
It’s remarkable how different people are when they have skin in the game. They can be sympathetic when you lose your job, but they’re depressed when they lose theirs. They can put a hand on your shoulder when your kid is in jail, but their hands tremble when it’s their own. They know just the right thing to say when expressing their condolences, but they are numb when you express yours.
In his book A Grief Observed, C. S. Lewis bares his soul on the sorrow and torment experienced at the loss of his wife. It is not an easy book to read. It was not an easy book to write.
In one paragraph, Lewis digs out the marrow in the bone of his grief and finds everything hollow. He writes,
“The faith which ‘took these things into account’ was not faith but imagination. The taking them into account was not real sympathy. If I had really cared, as I thought I did, about the sorrows of the world, I should have not been so overwhelmed when my own sorrow came. It has been an imaginary faith playing with innocuous counters labeled ‘Illness,’ ‘Pain,’ ‘Death,’ and ‘Loneliness.’ I thought I trusted the rope until it mattered to me whether it would bear me. Now it matters, and I find it didn’t.”1
Lewis hits rock bottom in this book, but he learns to look up and somehow to carry on. But he was never the same. And he realized the rope was still secure.
“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” – Job 7:11.
- C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (New York: Bantam Books, 1961), 42-43.