Thick or thin, the battle within.

Thick skinned apathy or thin skinned empathy?  Ha, you thought this was a post about weight, didn’t you? Only in a metaphorical sense.  We hear a lot about thick vs. thin skin and it is even somewhat of a mantra in many households.   Parents tell their kids they better get it or life will be just so much harder to survive.   Companies tell their employees to not be so sensitive about rejection or what anyone else says. Thin skinned people seem to be perceived as weak and too fragile to deal with real life. And then there’s sensitivity training for those who have built the proverbial thick skin they were chastised for not having in the first place and then expect everyone else to have the same rhino-esque qualities.  A bit confusing, isn’t it?  I say rhino-esque because it’s exactly what I envisioned as a small child when I heard someone tell me I’d better grow a thick skin pretty darn quick if I wanted to survive in this world.  I was so confused and as usual, my visual brain waltzed away on a safari of vivid images depicting what I would look like once I had gained this as of yet, undiscovered “thick skin”. Since I was in Africa at the time, and studied, exhaustively, all the amazing animals I saw on our adventures to Kruger Park, I pictured myself as that skittish antelope, the Impala.  Attentive to everything and yet still, probably destined to be eaten, I slowly developed the deep gray wrinkly skin of a rhinoceros which then impeded my movement and speech, as I also saw myself growing heavier and slower, cumbersome even.  I remember thinking I would then not care about anything anymore and just ram right through any situation I didn’t directly care about using my new found strength and impenetrable hide.  Did I mention I have a highly overdeveloped sense of imagination?

I also remember as soon as I had fashioned that vision in my head, I completely rejected it!  I didn’t want that level of apathy at all.  I cared deeply for people and I still do today, whether they be rhinos or antelope! It’s caused a lot of pain and welcomed an unbelievable amount of joy.  I couldn’t have explained it as well back then but, there was always an innate awareness in me of how others felt around me and how my choice of actions would affect them.  It’s a slippery tightrope of empathy and codependency, and it’s not easy to walk, even now.   I judge others, I have been through life experiences that left me raw and trying my best to build walls against anyone else wanting to know me past the acquaintance phase.  I stay tender only through my faith.  Ephesians 4:31 and 32 keep me coming back to a more humble light.  “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”   I find it the hardest to let go of the bitterness when I especially feel I’ve been wronged and deserve to hold on to that anger!  I need that reminder all the time and I need to pursue that all the time.  What keeps you grounded?  Where do you go for reminders of who you want to be when you aren’t sure who you are?  If you can’t answer this question in under a minute, I encourage you to take a deep breath and take whatever time you need to pursue a different path.

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9 thoughts on “Thick or thin, the battle within.

  1. I love this, Suzanne. What keeps me grounded? God’s Word! I can trust His Word. I can believe His Word. And I can count on Him to speak to me through His Word. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your tender heart with us.

    • Suz says:

      Thank you for your comment, Xochi. If we focus on Him, all else fades into the background, doesn’t it?

      • Amen! When our focus is on God, He uses “everything else” to grow us, to remind us of His love, His power, His faithfulness, His purpose and His endless mercy and overwhelming grace. By the way, I love the jellyfish you’re using for the background on your blog! Yet another example of how amazing the Lord is! 🙂

      • Suz says:

        Jellyfish are one of those examples of His immense ability and creativity for our pleasure. How does one even come up with a creature like that? I am constantly in awe of marine life, perhaps because I have a very strong affinity for all things aquatic. That, and I thought it was a perfect illustration of meandering. 🙂

  2. Sara Stumpf says:

    So well written. I too, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, am “thin skinned” & was always told by all 4 of my parents to toughen up and “not to wear my heart on my sleeve” (I too, had a very vivid imagination and still see the same image I did at 5 when I hear or say that term). I don’t know that it’s possible to authentically change that particular personality trait, especially as a child. You can pretend, but you lose yourself in doing so. So I’ve tried for many years now to just be “me”, thin skin and all. I am still asked why I ” let” things bother me so much, frankly I can’t help it. Of course, life would be easier for me if I was “thick skinned” or “let things roll off my back”, but I also wouldn’t be me; and I am an empathetic, loving, kind person who feels deeply, even for those I don’t know. My oldest son is the same way, he has an even bigger heart & he is far more trusting and faster to love than I ever was, yet he seems to have an aspect of his personality I don’t….things truly don’t seem to bother him like they bother me. I hope he never losses either aspect of his personality, he seems to have the best of both worlds. He is not nearly as sensitive to emotional pain yet loves and offers kindness so easily. He is more sensitive than some but I will never encourage him, or allow anyone else to encourage him, to “toughen up” emotionally. Wow, the number of euphemisms for that says ALOT about our society’s view of being “sensitive” in and of itself. Great post!!

    • Suz says:

      Thank you Sara! I feel as if the ability to stay sensitive amongst the cynicism of our world today is beginning to feel like a remnant of the past society. Today, we are not allowed to be bothered by anything but, must tolerate everything and it just doesn’t work that way for me. I extend love and grace whenever I can and empathy always. It doesn’t mean I don’t have my own standards, it means a human being is worthy of my understanding simply because they were created just like me. It is not an easy road to travel but, the rewards are worth the potholes along the way!

  3. I can be both thick and thin skinned. Thin when it comes to my feelings and thick when it comes to others! I’ve learned through conflict over the past week that it may take me a while to process through an issue before I can get to the point of what Eph. 4:31-32 says. I guess I need to realize that until I process through things, I need to keep my negative attitude in check. How could I stay grounded in that? More time with God reading His word and receiving His peace.

    • Suz says:

      Thank you, Luna! I am happy this post stimulates thought about the balance in our lives and how we search for it constantly, sometimes without realizing it, at least for me. And the times I feel the most out of whack is when I’ve neglected to search out His plan for me and just expect God to honor my lack of commitment to stay close to Him. That last sentence was hard to type and harder to reread!

  4. […] Thick or thin, the battle within. (meaningfulmeanderingsofsuz.wordpress.com) We hear a lot about thick vs. thin skin and it is even somewhat of a mantra in many households.   Parents tell their kids they better get it or life will be just so much harder to survive.   Companies tell their employees to not be so sensitive about rejection or what anyone else says. Thin skinned people seem to be perceived as weak and too fragile to deal with real life. And then there’s sensitivity training for those who have built the proverbial thick skin they were chastised for not having in the first place and then expect everyone else to have the same rhino-esque qualities. […]

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