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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Can you Really Grow a Thicker Skin?

The invention of many new technologies has created many opportunities for rudeness. One can shoot off an email, an IM, or a Twitter that's downright cruel. You can instantly broadcast a snarky comment on a message board or in a chat room.

Often times, the rude person will reply back to your protests with, "Grow a thicker skin."

I don't think that's possible.

I just watched a sequence on Ellen about an eleven year old boy who was bullied so severely at school that he took his own life. Words cannot even touch upon the agony that this mother has gone through. Words can wound. Words can kill.

Ellen's comments have echoed in my ears. She, like me, is an extremely sensitive person and was a very tender hearted child. And she, like me, hasn't changed with adulthood. This sensitivity is a good thing. To grow a thicker skin would be to suppress that which is good and true about a person. Sensitive people care deeply, feel deeply, and without them, the world would be a harsh and awful place.

My son is like me. He gets teary eyed when he sees an animal in pain. He's a true friend and empathizes deeply with those close to him. When told by an Ice Princess teacher that he needed to "get in control of his emotions" when he got teary at school over a rebuke from another student. I responded with:

1. I'm sure you don't want to appear unemotional, but you do. You might want to address that. And you damn well better start warming up to my son. He needs it and it's your job.

2. He will cry when he takes his wedding vows and at the births of his children. He will be the one that holds his spouse when times are tough and listen long and with tenderness when his kids need to air their feelings.

3. So, no, I won't ask him to get in control of his emotions. I will help him with learning to deal with them. But, he's hard wired this way and it's never going to change. It never changed for me and because of it, I have compassion and empathy for others. That's a quality that I'd hope any child would have. How great is it that I don't have to attempt to teach it?

I remember the Ice Princess' blank stare (with those alien looking pale blue eyes). She didn't get it and because of this, I consider this year of school almost a total loss for Young One. If she was kinder, more empathetic and softer, perhaps my son could have trusted her. Perhaps if she had this empathy, rather than tell me his "headaches are all in his head!", perhaps she would have helped us come to the diagnosis of a real, physical problem a heck of a lot sooner.

So, grow a thicker skin? No, thank you.

I suggest that if you've asked someone to do so, then you need to take a good look at yourself. At your behavior. Look closely and ask yourself why you're so afraid of emotions, kindness. Ask yourself why you've allowed yourself to become so rude. Ask yourself how you can just mow over someone and never look back. You just might be surprised at how easy it is to correct this flaw. Seriously, you're the one that needs to change. Not me.

1 comment:

  1. you wrote it beautifully. We all need to understand the world is made up of SO many different people and we ALL need to adapt to them. One person doesn't need to cahnge just because "its not cool" to be this way.

    I tell my kids IF YOU FEEL IT, SHOW IT! When you love something or someone SAY IT! If you like the way something smells or taste, ENJOY it!!

    We get one life and God made us WHO we are. And really who is going to argue with God??


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