All my life, people have told me that I was too sensitive. And they were right. I cry about everything.
One of my first memories of being picked on for my soft heart was at a fellow classmate’s birthday party at the roller rink. We were all a bunch of kindergardeners with Winnie-the-Pooh overalls and velcro, light-up tennis shoes. We were all dorky-looking, snot-faced, and yet adorably small and innocent. And we were all just trying to stay on our feet as we worked our way around the rink with our chunky rollerblades, clinging to the sides and using the walls to propel us forward at the speed of Houston traffic. Except I wasn’t having as much fun moving so slow. So instead, I found where the music was blasting through the rink’s speakers and had myself a dance party! Just me and I, dancing with all that I could give. Spice Girls couldn’t handle my moves.
Apparently, neither could my 5-year-old peers. I don’t remember what words were said to me, but I do remember how they made me feel: rejected, outcasted, henceforth declared too weird and different. When my mother finally came to take me home from the party, I was a puddle of sobbing tears. My at-one-time friends had taunted me even more once they saw the tears start to flow. And tears meant I was a Cry Baby.
As I grew older, that name followed me. In elementary school, boys at church would pick on me until they made me cry. In middle school, girls on my basketball team teased me for being such a ‘good girl’ until I would cry with frustration. How embarrassing it was when my basketball coach had to pull me aside to tell me that I needed to “grow a thicker layer of skin” to cope!
Tears became my trademark in high school as I dealt with the typical set of issues that most teenage girls go through. Just looking into a mirror and seeing my own sad eyes looking back at me would make me weep with self pity. (I know, I was a little pathetic.) Even during my undergraduate career, there were times when my emotions became too much for me to bear, too much to manage all at once. The logical, callous intellectuals around me would snort and scoff at me–she who was capable of shedding actual tears but incapable of controlling them.
Get Thicker Skin.
Suck It Up.
Stop Caring So Much.
Put Your Big Girl Panties On.
I have heard all of this from people who hated me and from people who loved me. It always felt like a slap to my face, like being told that I was defective somehow–like being a broken toy from “The Island of Misfit Toys.” And yet, somehow, at 22 years old, I have remained soft in a hard, hard world.
In spite of being told time and time again to become different, I’ve developed resilience in my sensitivity–stubbornness in my softness–steadfastness in my flux of emotions. For many, this is both puzzling and irritating. My tearfulness is considered a real weakness, a flaw, something to look down on me for. And that’s okay. Really. You want to know why? Because my soft heart allows me to love others more deeply.
Today, I am a lowly graduate student, attempting to earn a master’s degree at a huge university from a huge department with bureaucratic values. I have to keep up with my classwork and help produce research to publish. I sit in an office at my own little desk doing desk-type things. It can all seem pretty hard. No room for tears here. But wait. There’s more.
I get to teach a few classes. I get to have my very own students. College students studying leadership! And I get to love them. I get to show them all the care and support I can possibly give. I get to email them words of encouragement. I get to talk with them in my office about their life and struggles. I get to cry with them when they lose a grandparent or parent. I get to hurt with them when something doesn’t work out like they hoped. I get to be their Champion. I get to be a Cry Baby for them.
In the last month, I’ve been told separately by multiple individuals in my department that what makes me different, what makes me stand out is that I “actually care.” That I deeply care about everything and everyone. These comments are always met with my sincere surprise that my behaviors are noticeable and that my sensitivity would actually be praiseworthy instead of abhorred.
(It’s true, by the way. Staying soft has a price—and it’s being hated by those who won’t ever understand the paradox that great strength can come from great weakness and great love from great pain. Cheesy and classic, but nonetheless true.)
Realizing that my soft, little heart has somehow stayed in tact over the years despite being broken many times and despite being told to change so much has made me wonder why my soft heart is thriving now in this stage of life instead of being my downfall like it has always been before?
(I believe that there are two freeing lessons that I’ve learned here in the Great State of Texas that have kept my heart soft-yet-oh-so-steadfast.)
- Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You, Even When __________________.
(We as people would much rather live by our own amendment to the Golden Rule–justifying our behaviors towards others based on our own guidelines and judgments. But, in order to keep a soft heart, one must be willing to disregard these justifications and act EXACTLY as how we would like to be treated, period.)
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
- Care Deeply For Others, But Don’t Be Offended By Them—That Way, You Can Keep On Caring For Them Deeply.
(Being offended by someone can be the root of a long line of sins. It’s the “Bait of Satan.” To avoid bitterness and the hardening of one’s heart, one must learn to give up the right to being offended. FYI, you have no right to be offended. You hurt people too. Side-step being offended by others by simply caring deeply for others and forgiving them without haste.)
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:10
You know, all my life, people have told me that I am too sensitive. And they are right. I cry about everything. But I also care about everything. And if that means I’m going to shed a few tears, then so be it. Stay soft in this hard world, friends. It’s worth it.