Broken Ribs Are Broken Ribs

I like watching pilots.

My parents like to laugh when I say this, since my husband recently earned his license.

I like watching T.V. show pilots, because the good ones, next to songs, are the most compact form of good storytelling I know.

And with my journalism background, compact is meant as compliment.


In the pilot show of Burn Notice (the only episode I’ve seen) our Smart, Tough Protagonist finds himself seriously beat up in the first ten-minutes.

Later when the episode fall-man takes a swing at our STP and has his split second of triumph, the image freezes and STP narrates matter-of-factly: It doesn’t matter how much training you have; a broken rib is a broken rib. It doesn’t matter who you are or how you got it, it’s going to hurt.

Fall man thinks his punch was particularly effective, because he’s experienced enough to recognize real pain. What he doesn’t know is that STP’s already outlasted tougher punks than this guy.  And can prove it.

Other favorite line from the show: People with happy families don’t become spies. A bad childhood is the perfect background for covert ops – you don’t trust anyone, you’re used to getting smacked around, and you never get homesick.

The point is that injury = injury. It’s part of being a member of the human race and, honestly, doesn’t define who you are any more than a bloody nose (though it might be argued broken ribs and bloody noses are indicative of a particular identity).


Sinners sin, and fragile people get broken.

And there is the rub: even most of us who admit we’re sinners would rather avoid the nitty-gritty of it (fair enough), and all of us feel a bit affronted to be called fragile.

“I’ve taken care of myself til now!”

My whole life I’ve wondered about the horror of tears; why they are so desperately fought.

Why are tears so dreadful? So shameful?

Some thoughts:

  • They confess need.
  • They show weakness
  • The mourner’s core has identified a reason to spill a limited resource.
  • Observers now know too much, and/or too deeply.  Where there is often no desire or right to know.
  • The crier is on display, subjected to public interpretation.

Tears come from so deep it feels like a betrayal to have anyone either ignore or interpret them.

And if I barely know where they come from, so the effort of wondering how others see them is too great a burden.

The reality is, I break.

I bleed.

And somehow this is the natural order of things. This is part of creation and our finitude as humans.

It doesn’t matter how much training you have; a broken heart is a broken heart.

So my latest theory is of tears being as natural as bleeding. As legitimate a sign of wrong-ness, and as natural a thing to tend. Evidence of a wound that needs cleaned and protected.

Yes, I guess that means I’ve been the odd sort that was waiting for some kind of “permission.”

3 thoughts on “Broken Ribs Are Broken Ribs

  1. Ah, but you see, that’s true for me as well.

    I wonder why we think less of our own? Is it because we know better what is in our own hearts? (And maybe value it less, or fear it more?)

    These are the questions Tears spark in me.

  2. I love watching pilots too! Just watched the Psych pilot a few nights ago and really enjoyed it. Realized later what I liked about it – it’s a modern Holmes and Watson.

    I like this analogy – a broken rib is a broken rib, no matter how much training you have, and so is a broken heart. You can’t “get used to it” enough that it doesn’t hurt the next time it breaks.

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