I have always been sensitive. And I’ve always hated that word with the fury of a thousand hurt feelings.
Sensitivity was pathetic, weak, a lot of work. I saw no redemptive quality in having a heart that bruised like a peach. I envied the way life would bounce off the thick skin of my friends, while piercing me to my core.
In response to the harsh hallways at school I became tough, thick-skinned, or at least I tried to be—leaving me defensive and lonely as I tried to hide my squishy insides.
But last year I began a journey of making friends with my emotions—learning for the first time that there might be some redeeming quality to my tender, baby heart.
And only now can I finally admit that I’m a major crier.
Beauty, tragedy, little things, huge stuff, it doesn’t matter—my emotions escape my eyes and slip down my cheeks before my brain has the chance to intervene.
And for the first time, I’m actually not ashamed. I’ve welcomed my emotions in as a part of me—miraculously, one of my new favorites—instead of shoving them away hoping they’d disappear with neglect.
I have a mentor who I just love to pieces. Her name is Jackie and she’s beautiful and wise and really, really funny.
But one of my favorite parts about Jackie is how much she cries.
When it comes to something beautiful, or something hard, something switches in her heart and tears begin to pool in her ocean-blue eyes. She’s not weeping, or even crying really—just continuing on as tears release peacefully one by one.
Her tears speak of pain and struggle and her resolve to overcome—of sorrow for those who have been wronged, and her determination to fight for redemption. Her tears remind me of Jesus. They mourn, they fight, and they’re not afraid of the depth and ferocity that it takes to truly love.
Jackie’s tears aren’t weak. They’re a picture of strength. They’re holy.
And so it’s partly Jackie that has given me permission to cry, but it’s also been Carl.
I think girls try not to cry in front of boys because it can make them really uncomfortable. I’ve poured out my heart and my tear ducts in front of guys who, in response, awkwardly reach over to pat my knee, or worse, ask me not to cry.
I felt needy when I cried in front of guys—wanting to be as little work as possible, and to be able to control my emotions with swift, low-maintenance efficiency.
But as I cried for much of our first six months of dating (not because we started dating), Carl showed me right away that tears didn’t phase him, and even better, that he could be trusted with the deep places of my sensitive, peachy soul.
And he sees the tenderest tears when something really beautiful happens.
It can happen anywhere—in the drive-through at Starbucks, watching a dad giggle with his little girl, an older couple holding hands, or a really well-done commercial. Love, kindness, compassion, and some generic goodness are enough to wring out my tear ducts completely.
And in those moments—Carl wraps an arm around me, and kisses the top of my head—affirming in one smooth motion that he sees the place in my heart where the tears come from, and that he sees the beauty too.
It’s easy for us to believe that emotions are a sign of weakness—something embarrassing that make you a lot of work.
But I just don’t believe it anymore.
Our tears allow us to enter into life with the people around us. They say, you’re not alone, or I hear you, or me too. Each time we cry it takes down that wall that we build around ourselves to keep us protected. And as we allow emotions to flow in and flow out, we’re opening ourselves up to live.
All we need is a bit of permission.
Are there parts of you that you’ve always considered a weakness? What would happen if you gave yourself the permission to see them as a strength?