It’s the hard things that break; soft things don’t break. You can waste so many years of your life trying to become something hard in order not to break, but it’s the soft things that can’t break. The hard things are the ones that shatter into a million pieces.
We want to be “strong” and “tough,” to be able to handle all of life’s trials and tribulations without cracking. When we are strong, we hunker down, grit our teeth, and bear it. When we are tough, we “power through” the bad times. The short-term result of this is often satisfying. The hard person bounces back quickly from a failed marriage or an illness or losing a job.However, the trouble is often found beneath the surface and in the long-term. What happens when someone spends a lifetime hunkering down and powering through. The tree that doesn’t bend, breaks. A hard tree can endure a lot, but when a strong wind blows, it cracks and falls over.
Brené Brown talks of armor. We put on armor to avoid the hurt. That used to be a way of life for me. I endured a lot of trauma as a young adult and one survival mechanism I developed through these experiences was to not go too deep with people and not open up. But what does it mean when you don’t let people in and open yourself up to them? You avoid the hurt, but you also miss the intimacy, the connection, and the depth of an open, honest relationship.As Brené explains, you can cut off feelings—the good and the bad—but you can’t isolate and block out specific types of feelings. In order to feel joy and intimacy, you need to allow yourself the vulnerability that will also inevitably lead at times to pain.
<The more you hurt, the more you fear. The more you fear, the thicker the armor you wear. The thicker your armor, the more it weighs you down. When my armor finally cracked and fell off, it led to a breakdown. It was during the recovery from that breakdown that I learned what true strength was. When the pain became too much, I fell apart, and at that point, I had no choice but to go right. At that moment, all my hardness couldn’t see me through. And that’s what suffering is: it’s the great teacher that tells keeps telling you where to go, and the more you try to power through, the more painful and prolonged it will be. Then you soften up and go right, and everything changes.
Let hurt soften you; don’t let it harden you. Let that time someone hurt you open your heart up to compassion for all of those who are hurting. Let it be a reminder at the moment to be more forgiving.
When an experience is difficult, you can fight with it. But if you surrender to it, let down your walls, and be open to the experience, and you will grow from the pain. Give up the hard walls and soften yourself up to what comes your way.
When floating down the river of life, you’re totally right to swim in the direction you’d like to go. But paddle too hard against the current, and you’ll drown. Try going soft and floating, seeing where the river will take you—it’s not like you have that much of a choice anyway. 😉
Bravely learn to relax with life and see what happens, and you will make decisions with more wisdom and take actions with more power than if you were fighting.
As Pema Chödrön says, “stop protecting your soft spot…stop armoring your heart.” Likewise, “wretchedness humbles us and softens us…Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us.”