Saturday, April 19, 2008

Tender Hearts

I have high expectations for myself. In school it was A+ type work. In terms of relationships, it is being trustworthy -- let your yes be yes and your no be no kind of stuff. I am also a completely confidential person. This is probably a mix of things. In my family growing up, everything was a secret so I learned not to share. That probably wasn't so healthy. But then there is also the piece that I worked in ministry for 11 years and dealt with student's private lives so there were things that had to be kept confidential. And then I got my MA in counseling, so everything is private there! But it also slips into my relationships. I just don't tend to repeat things -- not even to say, "Don't tell anyone else but . . . ." We all know how that works.

I am also intensely loyal and tend to go out of my way to help people. Until last weekend, I thought this was mostly about helping people I knew well and cared for. A friend pointed out that I tend to respond that way to everyone. For example, there is a single mom in my community group. I do not know her at all. We've never said much more than "Hello." Part of it is the timing when she joined, I had to miss several weeks, so there hasn't been much opportunity. She recently told the group she was looking for a sitter because her regular sitter is going to be out of town for a week. I immediately said that I might be able to help because of the odd hours of my work schedule but that I needed to look at my schedule.

I looked at my schedule and found that I had some things already scheduled. I could definitely help one day and possibly rearrange life on a second day.... I began to problem solve how I could totally meet the need -- even considering using some vacation time. My friend pointed out that I respond that way to a lot of things but it isn't necessarily my job to meet every need that comes my way -- do what I can but don't turn into a Chinese acrobat with all kinds of contortions. I cannot be all things to all people.

All of that sounds somewhat positive, doesn't it? Loyal, caring, confidential, helpful. It is but there is a catch. Those are expectations of myself but I am realizing that I put those expectations on others as well. When the need isn't met or confidentiality is broken or whatever . . . I am extremely hurt.

I believe that God has given me a tender heart. It makes me see things that other wouldn't see and respond in ways that other might not respond. But a tender heart can also be easily hurt. I am finding the need to sift through what appropriate expectations are and where I perceive a slight when there might not be one.

The Velveteen Rabbit is a great book. In it the Skin Horse explains real and why it doesn't often happen to toys that break easily or have to be carefully kept. Real is when you get shabby in the joints and your fur has been loved off. My thought lately is that I may have to be "too carefully kept" to develop the friendships I long for. So, I'm praying that God would help me with my expectations, that I can give to my heart's content but not have the same expectations of others. I think the tender heart is a good thing. I just don't need it so easily broken.


Heather said...

Thank you Amy,
I too have a tender heart, and read too much into things that other people do or say, get easily hurt. I never realized exactly why. I think just reading your post today showed me that I too put the expectations on other people that I put on myself.. much like you.
Sometimes I have really disliked having such a tender heart. I go between guarding it from people and not letting them in, and being too open adn getting trampled on.
I guess like you I just have to love, do what I can, adn allow others to be themselves as well, whatever that means, no matter what that might mean to my heart.
Only recently have I really started to open my heart to others without huge expectations, though sometimes they have snuck in there, and been rewarded with a couple of really close, dear friends.
I will pray the same for you!
God Bless,

Heather@Mommymonk said...

My second daughter has an amazingly tender heart. It is a blessing - a huge blessing. But, I often struggle with the frustrations of her sensitivity. She notices every little detail and if things are off just a little bit, it can drive her crazy. On the other hand, she notices when my glass is empty and refills it, or if I don't feel well, she is the first to get me a blanket and a cool washcloth. That sensitivity when turned outward is something that blesses many people.