This started as a brief Instagram post and became this 650-word essay on hearts, opening, softening, hardening, and warmth…
Too often we harden our hearts. Like these blooms opening to spring’s changes and wonder, it’s much more beautiful to open and warm our hearts.
Don’t get me wrong: I know it’s not easy. It took me many years to even begin to open my heart to the people in my life. Still, having come through that and having watched others do the same I am always in awe of those who can hold their hearts open. When presented with everything the world can throw at us, this is particularly difficult.
Tragedy and Closures
Nearly anyone who is not in a monastery or cave has been affected by recent tragedies: school shootings, attacks on people because of who they are, continued inequality and mistreatment of women, and too many more to list. It's so easy in the face of these injustices to close one's heart. Grief often wells up in the aftermath of these events or continuous abuses. And keeping an open heart in the midst of grieving can be very challenging.
Now, if we are grieving, surely we have soft hearts. I know that in my case, I allowed my softness and sensitivity to misdirected me to close myself off from others.
If we get to the place where we can open our hearts, but we don't really let anything in or out, what good does that do? It seems to me that this hardness will defeat the purpose of opening ourselves up.
Coaxing and Uncovering
Over the years, I can remember hearing “if only you'd open your heart” from at least two of my teachers. For many years, I was resentful about this advice. I protested, saying, “I am already more open than I was” (which was true by comparison with myself, but still I seemed very closed). In all of this, I was still trying to “make something happen” by thinking more about it. I was coming from a head place, not a heart place.
Looking back now, there were two overarching problems: I was not being “real” with other people and I was coming across as “cold”. Ah, that's it: a soft heart is one thing, but a warm one is another.
Personal History and The Chill
Fortunately, earlier in my life I was warm-hearted. Before I walled off my heart (partially because it was so soft), I was someone that many people perceived to be a gentle and capable listener.
Unfortunately, I reacted to a number of personal crises ranging from divorce to severe criticism from authority figures (bosses and professors) with hard-heartedness. Since this was an unconscious decision, I assumed that I was still the same as I had been. The reactions I got from others began to make it clear that I was different.
It's Not Odd To Be Awed
I learned to be more real with other people through life-changing experiences. Many of those moments in my personal history I've shared here on this blog. If you ask me to summarize what I've learned, the best I can come up with is:
- Don't be afraid of emotions. Feelings are energy in motion. Learn to share how you feel. This is a huge part of being real.
- You can have a warm heart and still stand up for yourself. When people are rude, you don't have to react. And when you need to react, you can truthfully say that you deserve better. If someone abuses you, get away and get help.
- The benefits of being real and having an open heart far outweigh the risks. Is there a chance that we'll feel hurt again? You bet and the awe we can have on this side of open-heartedness will be worth it.
Awe leads to joy. I am wishing you a cup of awe and an ocean of joy.