As we get older, some of us take pride in the fact that life makes us thick-skinned. I recently had an encounter with someone who was surprised to learn that her attempt to spread gossip about me fell flat. It was, as they say, “a teachable moment” as I proudly stood tall in front of this (older) woman and said, “What other people say about me is their problem, not mine.”
Having thick skin is a honor, something we develop after years of learning the lessons and knowing what it feels like to be hurt and angry that life is sometimes just…not…fair. In short, thick skin is like wearing the catcher’s helmet, and if warranted, the leg guards, chest protector, and mitt. We become that person who squats, catches, and deals with anything thrown our way.
While being thick-skinned is gratifying and reinforces our identity (even Real Simple offers five ways to develop thick skin), it can also be somewhat exhausting. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have thin skin and just trust that everyone would be kind…not jealous, rude, or manipulative?
As Mark Nepo says, “We start out wanting to know love and living long enough, we become love. We start out wanting to know God, and suffering long enough, we become God. Over time, the heart expands from within and all our skins thin until we become something elemental…the next grain of wisdom to be found.”
Wear your thick skin with pride but understand that just as it builds up, it will wear down. There will come a time when we understand that it no longer needs to be a impenetrable shield that protects us. It becomes the very fabric of who we are: our honor, character, integrity, and truth. Our skin is an organ that breathes in and breathes out whatever comes our way, reminding us that it is nothing more than an encasement of our beautiful Soul.