Pastor Charles Swindoll always talks about the importance for us to develop a thick skin while cultivating a tender heart. Yet this type of personal make-up seems to require our living in an uneasy tension between two very different natures.
A hard heart implies that through the circumstances of our lives, we have developed an attitude of indifference. Cold, insensitive, unfeeling, and unyielding. It is likely a condition brought on by past hurt or pain. We have set ourselves in a position to purposefully and intentionally shut out unwanted influences. It is a protection mechanism that has been developed to filter out specific circumstances, emotions, or situations.
A tender heart gives us the ability to feel deeply and remain connected at an important emotional level. It means that we have developed a mindset that approaches the world with an attitude of warmth, compassion, charity, and sensitivity. We tend to be very easily moved by the plight or circumstances of those around us.
Yet, the combination of a thick skin with a tender heart seems to imply something of a delicate balance between opposing characteristics. The coupling of these two qualities, when appropriately developed and instituted in our programming, really amounts to a rational approach to making an informed decision on what we let affect our hearts and minds. It allows for the separation of the wheat from the chaff, the gold from the slag. It keeps us from reacting or over-reacting to people, situations, and input that unnecessarily and needlessly takes us to unhealthy places and mindsets. In fact, while seemingly a delicate tension, cultivating a thick skin with a tender heart is really the most healthy position of equilibrium for each of us.
(Part 2 of 2)