I can picture the paragraph in my seventh grade year book. The message from my friend made a rounded square, and the letters themselves were bubbly, expressive, and crowded together like a group of junior high schoolers. After the expected, “I hope you have a great summer,” she wrote, “I knew you were cool the day you told so-and-so to shut up.”
I read it over and over again, feeling smug over being described as cool and regretful as I remembered the cost of my quick words. Later, my Dad came across the yearbook, still open to the same back page of notes and signatures and asked me about it. Was someone bothering you? Why did you tell them to shut up?
He kept asking the same questions over and over again. I knew he was having trouble imagining his usually quiet daughter, who had cried over things like wilted flowers and city strangers with sad expressions, reacting to a friend that way. I lifted my shoulders at his incessant belief in the best of me and said I didn’t really remember. It was nothing. He knew better, and his tender gaze told me he could see farther than I could.
It would be easy to shrug this little incident off to the dark hole of junior high school years, but the thing is, I still remember it. Snippets of that memory after all this time stay sticky: my friend’s face after the words came out of my mouth, the way she halted her speech in the middle of a word, the other girls laughing and high-fiving me with their eyes, the feeling I had of earning attention and doing something unexpected, and wondering if I had traded in my relationship for fleeting admiration and a few feel-good lines in a seventh grade yearbook to come.
Even at that age, I felt it down deep. It wasn’t just my harsh words or the way I felt free to judge that my words were deserved and well-timed. It was the way I tried to move myself into a place of power and remove myself from being the sensitive girl I always had been.
Early on, many of us learn that sensitivity is something like an illness. We want to treat it. My mom was always worried that I would be hurt in the same ways she was, and now as a mom, I sometimes find myself acting and reacting to my kids with the same fear. Instead of sharing our own stories of hurt to come alongside one another and say, “Me too,” many of us try to shield ourselves or those we care about by attempting to stamp sensitivity into sensibility and tenderness into toughness. And ironically, with our shields held up high, this response is killing all of us from the inside.
The prophet Isaiah’s description of Jesus in Isaiah 53 simultaneously sobers me and gives me hope. I need to read it again and again. Isaiah described Jesus as a tender shoot surrounded by hard ground and so unattractive that people would look away from him.
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
Isaiah 53:2 (NIV)
While I couldn’t have always articulated it, what I’ve always needed most is a place where the One that was worshipped could look like Isaiah’s prophetic description and be the One we all bowed down to. What I’ve always needed to know is that there’s a place for someone who comes in last, for the ones who are passed over, for the one who is still struggling, for the girl who was mean in an attempt to stamp out the softness and prove herself strong.
Some mornings, I still resort to looking for strength in shallow places like my coffee cup. For a moment, I go back to thinking I need to toughen myself up, make a list, and push myself into hustling.
But these days, the good reminders come quickly. I see my imperfections persisting after the coffee is gone — the very things that tempt to hide in the school lunchroom of my soul but find Jesus standing there, arms wide, reminding me that weakness is the place where we are all made strong.
I find Him in the mess of our family relationships that I don’t have the right answers to and in the ugly parts of my heart that still exist no matter how many days this week I’ve silently checked quiet times off my list. I find Him at the well of my need when I try to go it alone again and try to hide the soft places inside, tenderly reminding me that sensitivity isn’t an illness; it’s a superpower. I find Him in the person I least expect, noticing my wounds: my junior high school friend who later told me she had already forgiven me while her crinkled brown lunch bag still sat open and unfinished on her lap. I find Him like my Dad, asking me why I said what I said, reaching down deep, persistent and kind, trying to get under the surface of my meanness, telling me that I am seen fully right in the midst of it and still met with love.Leave a Comment
Oh, I his paragraph right here! Though it was all so encouraging and spot on. Toughen up, make a list, and push myself into hustling. Busy working mom battlecry. Yet the One and only – He would creates the coffee – invites me to sit still and know Him first. And take assessment and feel and be sensitive. That is not a annoying deterrent on my road to busy-ness.
“Some mornings, I still resort to looking for strength in shallow places like my coffee cup. For a moment, I go back to thinking I need to toughen myself up, make a list, and push myself into hustling.”
Carmen, I’m so glad the words here resonated with you today. And yes—God invites us to be with him and helps us see. Thank you for that image.
Barbara Schultz says
Thank you, Tasha, for your honest and wonderful post. I (and I don’t think I am alone in this) know this stirred so much in me, and not only from my school years, but even now in my late 60s. It’s encouraged me to look at my feelings, my reactions to people, and my words, said out loud or thought, so that Jesus may be the One I magnify with my thoughts, words, and deeds. God bless you. Barbara
Karen Purkey says
Thank you for sharing the sensitivities of your heart and spirit. I am in my 70’s, yet am still encouraged to “toughen up” by some family. God made us in His image. We are created to be who we are in Him. Blessings and peace.
Amen, Karen. Sometimes I think the “toughen up” response I find in myself and others ones from fear. It takes a lot of courage to show up with our tender feelings. Your sensitivity is a superpower at any age.
Barbara, thank you for sharing. It’s the same for me-looking back only helps me to see the present a little better.
I’m glad to know I’m not alone!
I loved this! Thank you Tasha!
Becky Keife says
Tasha, your words always halt me with their beauty and truth. I love your tenderness! Thank you for these words.
That means so much to me, friend. Thank you for taking the time to read them.
Beth Williams says
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” For when I am weak, then I am strong. Some people see sensitivity as a weakness. Actually it is a God given talent. Spiritual sensitivity is a charism, thus God is powerfully present with us when we are operating in this gift. Jesus is giving us his own love for another person and equipping us to love them even more powerfully than we could on our own. Being sensitive is a superpower. We can with God’s help love & care for others-even our enemies. I practice this at work(ICU Step down clerical) all the time. Some patients are lovable & others are a little harder to like. None the less I show God’s love & sensitivity to all patients
Beth, I love that you are able to see God’s power at work in and through you in your job in the ICU. Thank you for loving on others and being a (sensitive) light there.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Tasha don’t have to prove yourself for being a sensitive person it is who you are. I am very sensitive. I take words to heart. My husband say at times I am to sensitive. That I would look at you if you said something to me. Then go away and afterwards cry about it. Especially when I have time to think what the person said. When I know they shouldn’t have said it. More so if saved. They should have known better. As words can hurt. I could have answered them back and said don’t be so horrible with your words. But I know that would only get me all hot and even more sensitive and bothered. I really take what they said to heart. If you have hurt me with your words. I will say nothing the first time you hurt me with your words. I will ask God to help me forgive you. Which I will but if happens again. I will the second time say you really hurt me with your words. When there was not need. I will pray for you and forgive you. But I will let you know you have really hurt me the second time round. I will do this with one person. If she did it again. I tell her that. As I know I did nothing wrong. But her words really hurt me. I was only explaining why I couldn’t do something in a nice way. This person told me of for it. I was hurt by her words. She shouldn’t have been so hurtful especially when she is saved. I thought when she thought about it she would have said sorry. Because she doesn’t think she has done anything wrong. So I just handed her over to God. I didn’t let her know she had hurt me with her words when I was being nice and explaining why I couldn’t do something. But next time I will tell her if she is hurtful with her words ever again. As words can hurt. I will tell her she should know better especially when saved. I will do in a nice way in Love on to Jesus. I know you Tasha when hurt you just want to get it of your chest there and then and you did. That is a normal thing to do.Then later you regret what you said. You are only sticking up for yourself. I can see why you did what you did that day at School all those years ago. I like to give a person a chance and leave them in God hands plus pray for them first. But I do take what people have said to my heart as I am so sensitive. To sensitive for my own good. Jesus is teaching me not to as sensitive. Not let people words especially if not nice and I in the right. To get to me. That I am to just pray for them hand them over go Jesus in prayer and ask Jesus to help me forgive them. I am finding it easy to with Jesus help. As before I went over what the person had said to me again and again in my head. That the only person Jesus showed me it was annoying was me. If I know I am wrong with my words. I will try and say sorry for what I have said. If the person will listen to me. If not just tell them anyway I am praying for them and I am sorry for my words. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xxxxxx
Dawn, thank you for sharing all of that. Your heart is so tender —I can feel it in your words. I’m grateful for your words here today, and glad you are here in this community, sister. Thank you for going to Jesus when you are hurt and when you are worried you’ve hurt another. That is no small thing.
Theresa Boedeker says
With you Tasha. Sensitive soul here. And yes, people have tried to toughen me up. But it is also that sensitivity that has made me a better mom. A better friend. A kinder wife. A better listener of God’s words. It took me awhile, but now I know the world needs both tough and sensitive souls.
I love that insight-what grace to be able to see it in such tangible ways. Thank you for being you, and being here, Theresa!
Dorcas Wolf says
Keep writing Tasha! Thanks for the reminder. I don’t know if you’ll remember me. We met in a Japanese restaurant when your Mother in law was visiting you many years ago. I used to live in Indiana and Becky and I went to school together in Japan.
Dorcas, yes! I remember you and that nice lunch we had. It was so great to meet you. I hope you are doing well—thank you for the encouragement.