I’ve enjoyed watching police dramas since childhood. Some of my favorites from the distant past include Streets of San FranciscoKojak, and Starsky and Hutch. Currently, my favorite television program is CBS’s Blue Bloods. It stars Tom Selleck as New York City police commissioner Frank Reagan.

A wise patriarch, Reagan often dispenses provocative quotes at the family dinner table,1 including this line from Colombian novelist and Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez (1927-2014): “Everyone has three lives: a public life, a private life, and a secret life.”2

As a philosophy instructor, I like quotes that make me think about the most important questions of life and I’m especially interested in discovering possible insights concerning the enigma of human nature. This quote struck me and caused me to want to reflect about its meaning. So, I tracked down the quote to its source and researched its potential meaning.

Some have interpreted Márquez’s quote to reflect the following, but various sources on the Web show that not everyone agrees.

1. A Public Life: This is the side of themselves that people present at work, church, civic arenas, and other public contexts. This is how people are generally seen in their daily life outside the home.

2. A Private Life: This is the side of life that people share with family and close friends. Only a person’s inner circle, so to speak, gets to see this “version.”

3. A Secret Life: This is the side of life known only to an individual. In can include one’s private thoughts and secret actions. People may be aware of their secret life, but that is not always the case. The reality of the secret life may be unknown even to the individual person himself for all of us have blind spots that stand in the way of true self-realization.

A Few Reflections

In light of this interpretation, I offer a few reflections. As I see it, Márquez’s quote has interesting psychological, philosophical, and theological implications.

Psychological: It seems common for people to compartmentalize their lives. But the sharper the divide between the compartments usually the greater chance of a deep cognitive dissonance (an inconsistency of beliefs and actions). In this case one wonders where, or if, true self-realization (growth or fulfillment) can be achieved.

Philosophical: All people at one time or another wonder about the deep questions of life. Moreover, every person has deep inner longings, yet it seems these existential yearnings are seldom revealed publicly or even privately. This disconnect could reflect an inner existential estrangement (self alienation).

Theological: Original sin has caused a powerful disorder in human beings with regard to God, to others, and to or within one’s self. There is a brokenness and fragmentation within the self. Sharp compartmentalization often works against a unified inner moral integrity. And, from a Christian worldview perspective, nothing is truly secret before God. This reality can be good news for the existentially lonely, but quite foreboding for those who seek to hide their immoral secrets.

I think Márquez’s quote is insightful and engaging. It has made me reflect about the compartmentalization in my own life. It has also caused me to consider what goes on in the inner lives of other people who may be suffering and to have empathy for them.

I like to watch television shows that make me think deeply about life. Tom Selleck’s character of Frank Reagan on Blue Bloods with his provocative quotes often provides ample inspiration for such reflecting.

Reflections: Your Turn

Do you agree that everyone has three lives? Are there television programs that you watch that make you think? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Check out more from Reasons to Believe @Reasons.org

  1. Blue Bloods, season 10, episode 6, “Glass Houses,” directed by Heather Cappiello, written by Kevin Wade and Allie Solomon, CBS, aired November 1, 2019.
  2. Gerald Martin, Gabriel García Márquez: A Life (New York: Vintage, 2010), 198.


About The Author

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach relies on the Christian idea of God’s two revelatory books - the metaphorical book of nature and the literal book of Scripture. As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason. This approach reflects the historic Christian apologetics statement - "faith seeking understanding." I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Kenneth Richard Samples began voraciously studying Christian philosophy and theology when his thirst for purpose found relief in the Bible. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and social science from Concordia University and his MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. For seven years, Kenneth worked as Senior Research Consultant and Correspondence Editor at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and regularly cohosted the popular call-in radio program, The Bible Answer Man, with Dr. Walter Martin. As a youth, Kenneth wrestled with "unsettling feelings of meaninglessness and boredom," driving him to seek answers to life's big questions. An encounter with Christian philosophy in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis led Kenneth to examine the New Testament and "finally believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the Lord and Savior of the world." From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying faith. Today, as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), Kenneth uses what he's learned to help others find the answers to life's questions. He encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical level. He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference, and has contributed to numerous other books, including: Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, The Cult of the Virgin, and Prophets of the Apocalypse. He has written articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal, and regularly participates in RTB's podcasts, including Straight Thinking, a podcast dedicated to encouraging Christians to utilize sound reasoning in their apologetics. He also writes for the ministry's daily blog, Today’s New Reason to Believe. An avid speaker and debater, Kenneth has appeared on numerous radio programs such as Voice America Radio, Newsmakers, The Frank Pastore Show, Stand to Reason, White Horse Inn, Talk New York, and Issues Etc., as well as participated in debates and dialogues on topics relating to Christian doctrine and apologetics. He currently lectures for the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Kenneth also teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California. Over the years Kenneth has held memberships in the American Philosophical Association, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Press Association. The son of a decorated World War II veteran, Kenneth is an enthusiastic student of American history, particularly the Civil War and WWII. His favorite Christian thinkers include Athanasius, Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis. He greatly enjoys the music of the Beatles and is a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.

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