Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. ― Philippians 2:1-2
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. ― Psalm 51:10
It is only once we stop taking everything for granted and fully open our hearts to the beauty that surrounds us that we will understand the importance of joining our hands in the construction of a better world for the people of generations to come. ― Francisco Battiti
Status will get you nowhere. Only an open heart will allow you to float equally between everyone. ― Mitch Albom
I talked with you in an earlier chapter about the importance of guarding your heart. This may sound like I’m talking out of the other side of my mouth, but, in this chapter, I want to challenge you to avoid closing your heart while developing thick enough skin to handle the slings and arrows of life coming your way.
We all have a tendency to close our hearts. This is tied to how often people can be hurtful to us. We close our hearts in an effort to protect us from the pain of others being wounding, but closing our hearts only leads to more emotional and relational pain along life’s path.
The two main forms of a closed heart are a heart that has closed with resentment and bitterness toward others and a heart that is closed with coldness and indifference. The notion of a hardened heart in the Bible (Proverbs 28:14) typically comes down to these two versions of closing off one’s heart to those we interact with on the planet.
Admittedly, it’s a risky thing to keep your heart open to people. It makes you vulnerable to how they might hurt or disappoint you again, something that very few of us are willing to risk. To hold on to empathy, compassion, and kindness to others, especially those who have wounded us deeply, is a scary thing and not for the faint of heart. Nevertheless, it is what we are called to do if we are going to be loving human beings.
That being said, I don’t think keeping an open heart is the only thing we’re supposed to do when interacting with others. I believe we are supposed to have thick skin as well.
What I mean by that is we need to keep our heart open to people while having thick enough skin to not take their selfish and hurtful actions personally.
This is the balance Christ struck while He was here.
He never once closed off his heart toward others even though many people treated Him like dirt. His heart was always filled with compassion, kindness, and empathy toward others. Yet, Christ never took anything people did personally as if it was about Him. Christ knew that whether people treated Him well or poorly, it was about them and where their soul was at in that moment.
All of this is why Christ could be up on the cross and utter words that were beyond mind-blowing, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
The only way Christ could have responded to such evil treatment this way is that He didn’t take one single thing personally while He was here—not one. That’s having thick skin.
An open heart and thick skin are two essentials for going through life as a loving and yet boundaried person in your relationships with others.
As Alaric Hutchinson so beautifully put it, “There is no excuse good enough to ever be out of alignment with love. You’re going to get hurt, and you will feel pain. Yet your purpose is to keep loving, anyway. Keep moving forward with an open heart. Love is a Divine gift given to humanity. Wasting it is no longer an option. Love is what brings light to a dark place. Love is what transforms a dying world into a thriving planet.”
We sometimes falsely believe that the way to heal a broken heart is to close it down. Just the opposite is true.
Christine Evangelou wisely noted, “You can only heal a broken heart through allowing it to open again; a closed heart remains a wounded heart. Many battles may be lost but you are not broken and you are not your wounds.”
Yet, a word of caution…
While we are to keep our hearts open, it doesn’t mean we don’t draw stiff boundaries with others if they won’t stop being abusive. The heart of Christ was constantly open and loving, but, on more than a few occasions, He strongly asserted Himself, even to the point of ending relationships if people would stop being abusive.
Judas spent three years as a disciple, and He spent the whole time helping himself to the money that Christ and the disciples used to support their ministry. The final straw in Christ’s relationship with Judas was when he sold the Lord out for thirty pieces of silver.
While Christ never closed His heart to Judas, He ultimately ended their relationship when Judas committed the ultimate betrayal of turning Christ over to be falsely tried by the religious leaders.
Munchkins, try to keep your heart open and your skin thick.
Keep in mind that people who are unrepentantly hurtful are walking around in utter darkness as to how fallen and sinful they are.
Do everything you can to have compassion for them while not taking their actions personally. And, when someone won’t stop being hurtful, draw firm and unyielding boundaries with them. If their actions don’t noticeably improve in the future, “Have nothing to do with such people” (2 Timothy 3:5).