As I have gone through life, I have found that there are several quotes and axioms and Scriptures that have resurfaced or repeated time and time again, often extremely pertinent, relevant, and poignant to just what I was experiencing at the time. Several of these have come to form cornerstones for me and the way I live my life. What I will include here are four of those soul foundations.
“Softness is not weakness. It takes courage to stay delicate in a world this cruel.” – Beau Taplin
When I was growing up, I remember being told (what is to me now unsettlingly often) that I need to “grow a thicker skin”. I needed to not let things bother, not let people get to me, not be so sensitive. And, for a while, I didn’t. I hardened. I slung barbs as pointed and poisoned as those that were slung at me, seeming to just shrug them off and fire back with no issue. But that wasn’t the case. There were issues. I had more “frienemies” than actual friends. No one to confide in, no one I felt free to be myself with. And that hurt. A lot and deeply.
So I went back to being soft, to being sensitive. I remember a time in high school when I was deeply unsure as to whether or not my friends were actually my friends or if they just hung/wanted me around for what I could give them or do for them (help with homework, cookie bribery for getting said homework done in detention, access to Backstreet Boys/*NSYNC everything, etc.). I lingered after school to speak with my high school teacher and mentor but my heart was still heavy. I even backed out of a sleepover that Friday night (on the pretext that I didn’t feel well, though I think my introverted homebody-ness also had something to do with it) because I felt like I had been invited last minute and not as an initial intention. My mother knew how I was feeling and, after making me my favorite dinner, she left me to my devices in my room. She gave (and still gives) me space for my softness, which I have never forgotten and will always appreciate. That night, my friends snuck into my backyard and serenaded me under my window.
I refuse to be hard now. I don’t want to be hard. The world has enough hardness, enough snark and criticism and cruelty. How can people feel safe and accepted without softness, without sensitivity? Without someone willing to allow and welcome them to be the same? Being hard is…well…hard for me. In arguments, I hardly ever fight back. I find it impossible to yell and scream at someone, to sling any ammunition I might have at them, even though I know that it would stop the argument in its tracks. I have had half a lifetime of seeing what such hardness can do and I don’t want that. I don’t want to be hard. I don’t want to teach my daughter to be hard either. I want to nurture a soft, sensitive heart in her that is always on the lookout for those who might need a soft place to land, even if for just a little while. Just because you are soft, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t strong. Silk is soft, but I dare you to try to rip apart a silken rope.
“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue…” Proverbs 31:26 (ESV)
In the newest rendition of “Cinderella” to be produced, our little heroine’s mother gives her some lasting life advice: “Have courage and be kind.” This is wisdom and truth of a deepest, most magical kind, because these are not easy things to do but ones that can affect the entire tenor of one’s life.
My favorite book of the Bible is Proverbs, with all of its lessons, instructions, axioms, and examples. I was taught to love it by a wonderful woman, my aforementioned high school teacher and mentor, Mrs. Profitt. She took my class through Proverbs in a month, a chapter a day, and we discussed key verses in these chapters. And I have continued it. Not every month but it remains one of the books that consistently draws me back to it time and time again. The verse above stands as a constant reminder to me of the woman I want to be. I want to use my words wisely because “the tongue has the power of life or death (Proverbs 18:21)”. What we say matters; our words affect others. Jennifer Dukes Lee puts it succinctly: “Our words always fold into the souls of other human beings. That’s no small thing.” It is no small thing indeed. I cannot count the number of times that my soul has been bolstered by the life-giving words of a friend or loved one, or the times that it’s felt like my foundation was shattered beneath my feet by a single sentence. So I want to use those words I speak with wisdom and kindness. I want to build up souls, speak life to them, not break them. We already live in such a broken world, we need to start mending and sewing these pieces together with love. And I believe that we have. In our present-day society, habitual kindness has become such a rarity as to be touted through every social media and news outlet when it is performed. I am not saying that we should not highlight kindness, but I do wish that it was so much more of an everyday occurrence that we should not be so surprised by it, by love, by mercy and grace. I want to embody the teachings of this Scripture and that of Cinderella’s mother and maybe, just maybe, I can help to make a heart a little lighter, someone’s footing a little more sure, and show those around me and the little one growing up at my knee that it is indeed possible to “have courage and be kind”.
“Do your best to live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18 (CEV)
Another of my favorite Scripture verses.
I am not a confrontational person. I don’t like arguments, I don’t like fights. I don’t like discord. I understand that sometimes confrontation is necessary, yes. But I am the type of person who is far more likely to try to find the most peaceful way possible to diffuse and/or resolve whatever the situation might be, to limit any one person feeling like they are being attacked or set upon or what have you. I try to live peacefully with others as much as I can and as much as the situation depends on me. If people ask for explanation or reasoning for actions or feelings of mine, then I will do my best to provide it and listen to theirs in return. Sometimes, maintaining peace isn’t possible and the most peaceful and peaceable thing I or they can do is to step back or even walk away. That is hard, (oh, so hard because it feels so much like giving up), but it is sometimes the course I am called to, the best decision I or they can make.
I’ve noticed before that an abundance of negativity has a bad effect upon my spirit, on my heart. I have sat on the steps between our kitchen and den and cried, desperately trying to explain to my husband just why I was crying over Facebook feeds and whatever storm or argument was currently causing a gale of anger and negativity.
I try to do what is right because then I am at peace and I will keep on doing my best to live peacefully with my world and those around me.
These are a few of the teachings that I have taken to heart and am using to build my life. I know that I have a purpose, a ministry, and I know that I have the gifts to accomplish it. But, with all honesty, I think that this is the one that is consistently and most deeply scored upon my heart:
“A new command I [Jesus] give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34, 35