Why Hearts Turn to Stone (and how to turn them back!)

It's inevitable. From the moment we're born we're shaped by forces outside of ourselves. It's true irony since it takes us years to realise everything we actually need is on the inside of us.

An unexamined life is not worth living. - Plato

If the first half of our lives is spent learning, then the second half is surely spent unlearning. Everything we've taken on as truth must be examined and a decision reached as to where, how or even if the belief has a place within our hearts. Finally, we become valuable to ourselves and taking inventory is a natural progression.

As children, we're sensitive and vulnerable. We cry a lot. Every day in fact. Most of us are taught that crying isn't good and it's something we should stop or avoid. We're chided, even teased, by our families, friends, society as a whole for expressing our feelings. We're told things like "You're so sensitive" and "Stop being so silly."

The Old Testament describes tears as the by-product of when the heart’s material weakens and turns into water. In the Bible, crying is oftentimes referred to as a gift from God. It is likened to food, specifically bread, and it frequently mentions that our tears are like seeds we plant that shall be rewarded.

He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him. -Psalm 126:6

As we grow up a variety of things can hurt us. We can put our hearts on the line, loving someone who doesn't love us back. We can have parents who aren't always capable of showing us the love or nurturing we need in order to feel secure. We can be hurt in any myriad of ways that causes us to revise our vulnerability whether consciously or unconsciously. All of these experiences inform who we become in life and how honestly we choose to present ourselves. Over time, we begin to take on the lie that in order to protect ourselves we must bury our true feelings and present ourselves as who others expect us to be, which more often than not means presenting as self-sufficient. Not only is there no greater shame than this, but there is no greater lie. We were designed to need each other. We were designed to love deeply and rely heavily. Together our strengths and weaknesses weave the most beautiful tapestry.

When we examine the lives of truly loving people who have impacted the world, we think of people like Mother Theresa, Ghandi and especially Jesus. Did these people lack strength? Quite the opposite. Did these people lack real power? I think not. What they had was a capacity to love from a softened heart. I daresay this was due to the fact they never allowed their hearts to become hardened to the truth. The truth about themselves, the truth about their creator, the truth about why we're here and what matters most. Loving from a softened heart requires tremendous courage. It requires we ask ourselves what we're loving for and it demands a purposeful answer to the question. If the answer is security of self or to get something in return, then this kind of love will surely bring about pain.

Let's be honest, we all want to be loved. However our desire to be loved fully has become what's deemed as acceptable: a watered down, "safe" version of wanting to be thought of as cool or respected by our friends and family as successful. It's the safest way to be loved because you can pretend not to care if the person leaves or hurts you. It's love for cowards. There's no risk here and there's certainly no real reward.

Real, deep, true, uncomfortable, inconvenient love is risky because it's the only kind that has the capacity to change the world.

So how do we go about dismantling the walls we've built and softening our hearts? I wrote an article recently about the Necessity of Tears. I'm grateful it has resonated so much with people, particularly therapists and trauma survivors. I've been studying pain, emotions and tears firsthand and through research for more than a decade. I'm curious about the pain we oftentimes cause ourselves and even more so about our ability to heal ourselves when we're willing to search for and find the inner strength to face the truth. What I've concluded at this point in my studies is that there are two things which are most beneficial to healing: writing and crying.

When we write about our experiences the truth has a way of pouring through our pen before our mind has a chance to get in the way. It's brought to the surface, allowing us to reflect on our words and glean wisdom about ourselves and what's long been buried in our souls.

The importance of tears in the process of healing one's heart cannot be diminished. Reflection, and the tears that naturally ensue from it, causes us to deconstruct our barriers and view ourselves with compassion. You begin to see not only your own facade but those of others for what they truly are: a waste of precious time, a missed opportunity for connection, the enemy of authenticity and at the very least the suspension of a shallow, unsatisfying reality. It's never easy to realise you've held walls between yourself and love, but the only way out is through and there is most definitely joy on the other side as I'm writing to you from it.

I'll leave you with a saying that has proven to be true in my own life:

"The only people who are mad at you for telling the truth are people intent on living a lie."        -  Author Unknown