For some reason while I was driving yesterday a very old conversation I had with friend/former roommate popped into my head concerning how she described me to people. Her description: "sensitive."
That got me thinking about how I would describe myself. In the best of light, I would call myself emotional, logical, creative, nurturing, passionate, independent, motivated, and thoughtful. In the darker moments, I would call myself moody, unfocused, selfish, lazy, and flippant. I'm complicated.
Her description of sensitive was one that made me laugh at the time, though I think she was spot on. I wouldn't have ever described myself that way because I was supposed to be tough, independent, and self-reliant. Independent women are not sensitive - that is a weakness. As I have allowed myself to sink deeper in the reality of who God has made me to be, I realize how misguided that thought was. Sensitivity is not a weakness - it is a necessity. To be docile to the Spirit, we have to be sensitive. To have a heart for others, we have to be sensitive. To rise up against injustice, we have to be sensitive.
The world had told me to dull my senses so I wouldn't get hurt. The truth is that I am always going to be hurt, but in that woundedness I can find strength, gentleness, compassion, guidance and surrender. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." I can be sensitive because He is my strength. A beautiful part of my feminine genius is that softness and sensitivity.
As I look at my own children, too often I find myself telling them to "suck it up." While I don't want to raise a brood of whiners, I don't want to dull their sensitivity either, girl and boy alike. Boy, do men have it hard - at least as women we are expected to show emotion (even though we are equally teased for those same displays). I can't imagine having to live with the lie that masculinity is somehow devoid of emotional display or softness. One of my favorite quotes is from Robert Anderson's Tea & Sympathy:
"Manliness is not all swagger and swearing and mountain-climbing. Manliness is also tenderness, gentleness, consideration. You men think you can decide on who is a man when only a woman can really know."
Tenderness, gentleness, consideration - they all require sensitivity. Sensitivity is not a four letter word, people. There is beauty that arises from us being sensitive - to each other, to God, to the world. We are resiliently fragile, and embracing that fragility makes us more alive to the beauty that resides in one another. The world needs more witness of that beauty, that care, that gentleness, that compassion that arises from a sensitive soul. While it took me some time to understand why I never would have described myself as sensitive (because let's face it, sensitive people are emotional ninnies, right?), I fully admit now that I am, in fact, sensitive, and as Jewel would say, I'd like to stay that way. I encourage you to embrace it too.
...It doesn't take a talent to be mean
Your words can crush things that are unseen
So please be careful with me, I'm sensitive
And I'd like to stay that way.
...I have this theory that if we're told we're bad
Then that's the only idea we'll ever have
But maybe if we are surrounded in beauty
Someday we will become what we see...
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