A Tender Heart and Tough Skin

A very wise mentor of mine once told me this when she found me crying in the ladies room at church one Sunday when I couldn't understand the rejection I was experiencing at the young tender age of 20 something. It was our first job in ministry and I was new at all the expectation, criticism, and relational pain that goes along with the "people business" of ministry. I asked for her advise since she was my husband's boss's wife at the time. I'll never forget her words and they have served me well through lots more relational pain that would follow over the years. Here I am 20+ years later still grappling with just how to do this. "Always keep a tender heart and tough skin," she said in her thick southern accee-ent. That voice rings in my head each time the need is there for the principle to be applied. But the answer to "how" remains a mystery for many of us in each case because of all the various situations beckoning the need for this principle to anchor us in shaky times. I believe over time I have found some things that might help with the how. It sure has me...


We all come upon situations that call for this. And I believe the degree of our success lies in being able to pull this off. For years I thought that when someone didn't approve of me or had a problem with me that the solution was to reason with them and talk it out. "Let's get to the bottom of it", I would often say. Well that is the case when you are dealing with reasonable people which as I'm sure you have come to realize is not always the case. My husband and I listened to the most fantastic audio book a while back titled "How to Talk to Crazy" Well, let me just say, I didn't know how to do that. And that's where I've gone wrong on many occasions...not that everyone else is crazy. It actually points out how we all have a lil crazy in us from time to time and how self awareness of that can also help. I highly recommend the book if you find yourself dealing with not being able to get anywhere with someone in conversation. 


It has been said that we are only as happy as our least happy relationship. You know why that is the case all too often?  I explain it more in detail in my book Happy Anyway, but the short answer is God is love and love never fails. The answer to being happy is love because God created us out of a longing to be with us and have relationship with us. Our relationship with Him is the most important one of all. But here's the deal: when any relationship is out of whack it eats at us and we want to fix it. Why? We are made in His image!! When God's relationship with man was out of whack He sent Jesus to redeem that connection with His family! When connection is broken with people we love the pain can be almost unbearable. This explains why that is. This is why divorce or any fracture in a family relationship is so painful.

But here's the thing...we are all called to be the family of God so when there is relational pain, it's just the worst. It's because God never meant for there to be fractions among us. Love never fails but when people are judgemental, critical, spread strife & gossip, think the worst rather than the best of each other's motives as scripture teaches, it hurts to the core. Why? Because it is a form of loss. 

Ok, so how to deal with this pain and be happy anyway? Here's how....Happy people trust in the Lord scripture tells us. It also says for us to condemn every word spoken against us. My husband and I are in a public position so words are going to be spoken against us. It's just part of life as leaders and the more visible you become the more arrows fly your way. Funny thing though is you really can get used to it and the way is to keep a tender heart but thick skin. This may seem weird. But we have always been able to sense when words are being spoken against us and when we do, we grab hands and together proclaim what the Bible says,"Every word spoken against us we condemn in the mighty name of Jesus!" And then we TRUST GOD to vindicate us and have our backs no matter who else does or doesn't have our backs at the moment. {Man, that was easier to write than do.😜}

 Listen, people WILL let you down. Think about it, have you ever let anyone down? I know I have as much as I try not to. If you haven't been brutally betrayed, maybe you never will. But if you have been hurt to the degree that you feel is beyond repair, let me remind you of a scripture - "Love NEVER fails." Never means never - nope not even in this situation!! Keep your heart tender toward God and people. Don't let anyone take away your tender heart. They are not worth it. You may need to set some boundaries. Scripture clearly says to guard your heart for out of it flows the issues of life which I believe are the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience and so on found in Galations 5. The way to have thick skin is to guard your heart from those who you know are critical of your every move looking for you to fall and gossiping about you. Distance yourself from them when needed and ask God to be your rear guard. He will be. He can help you to not become bitter but instead to pray for those who curse you. When I know someone is betraying me, my favorite prayer for them that keeps my heart tender toward them and helps me walk in forgiveness instead of bitterness is the same prayer Jesus prayed, "Lord forgive them for they know not what they do." And as soon as I pray that I also pray, "And forgive me in my blind spots where I also know not what I do... and open the eyes of our understanding..."  That prayer has melted hurt and anger into love and joy countless times for me! Try it and live your life this way! It's a real secret to being happy anyway. Keep a tender heart and thick skin! Keep the blinders on and keep moving ahead! Let em talk. But you just keep moving forward being positive and ignoring the negative. Light expels darkness and in much the same way as turning a light on in a dark room causes darkness to dispel, being positive in the face of critical negativity stops its effectiveness. It kills its ability to hurt you!! The minute you try to fix it and get in it with them, especially after you have tried time and time again to no avail, you become part of the drama, get all enmeshed with it and focus on that instead of what you are called to do. Be about the Father's business not the busybodies' business. Be differentiated from negativity. That's what it looks like to have thick skin. You are who God says you are so gaze at what He says about you and only glance at the situation for a short time when absolutely necessary then fix your gaze quickly back on Him! (Sort of like looking at a rear view mirror when driving to get your bearings but get your eyes quickly back on the road in front of you!) You'll notice your head will be high looking up to Him instead of down in depression at all that nonsense that is only meant from the enemy to be a distraction to keep you from reaching your potential. Don't succumb to it. You'll notice when you do this "Hey I have a tender heart and tough skin!" And you will begin to roll with the punches living victorious above it. 

I am telling you, this is possible. Easy? Not at all. But possible? Yes! Over night? Nope! A process of learning the skill of having a tender heart and tough skin? Yes! But a process worth learning? For sure. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you! 


Happy Monday ANYWAY!!!