Sunday, October 07, 2007

Tender-hearted

I have a tender heart.

It took years for me to understand that and allow it to be true.

Shortly after John and I were married, we took the Myers-Briggs personality test. I was an ESTJ, my husband an INFP. Complete and total opposites.

The third letter in each profile, T/F, represents a thinking versus a feeling person. I was so prideful back then of my "T", my thinking personality. I remember being proud that my head ruled my heart. And heaven forbid my heart might rule my head. Oh no. Not this girl. I was steely and cold...always in contol of my emotions...at all costs.

And then I had a child. And another. And another. And the girl I was began to soften and melt away. No longer could I control my emotions. When they'd rise to the surface, I was embarrassed and ashamed of them and did everything I knew to push them back down and bury them. My heart was softening, but I didn't like it one bit. To be honest, it scared me. And I didn't like losing control of something I'd had control of for so long.

Slowly and tenderly, God has been showing me that my tender heart is good. It is how He created me. And slowly, I've been releasing the need to keep my emotions and my tears buried. Relinquishing control.

I mentioned before that my kids laugh at me because I cry when I'm overwhelmed by beauty. Sometimes I see Pikes Peak in all her spendor and the only way I can respond is with tears. I cry when I'm hurt, I cry when I'm sad, when I'm happy, when I'm angry, when I'm thankful, I cry when my heart is breaking, and sometimes I cry when I'm afraid. I'm trying to get to the point that I'm okay with my tears...that it's okay for them to fall. Sometimes I'm much more comfortable with them than others.

I was at a retreat at my church about a year ago, and on that particular day, I was a mess. There were some things going on in my life that felt extremely weighty. The moment we began worship, my tears started falling. They didn't stop for most of the day either. It felt weird to be seen and exposed like that, but you know what happened? A couple of very good friends came and started praying for me. I couldn't even really tell them what was wrong or how to pray, but my tears led them to intercede for me. I apologized to one friend for my lack of emotional control, and she told me to stop being ridiculous...and then she told me that my tears were a beautiful offering of my heart...to her and to God. She gave me permission to fall apart and cry. I will never forget that either.

I'm trying to also teach my girls that it's okay to cry. That is how God made us...as females, we feel things deeply. Sadness, joy, hurt, heartache. And when we feel those things, crying is perfectly acceptable. One afternoon last spring, Abbey was watching The BFG (stands for Big, Friendly Giant) and at the end of the movie, the giant has to say good-bye to his friend, Sophie. I was in the kitchen doing something while listening to the movie. I peeked around the corner to see Abbey trying really hard to hold back her tears. When she saw me, the dam broke, the tears burst forth and she had a very good cry. She did it again a few weeks ago while listening to a song. It made her sad...and she had to cry about it. I LOVE that. She feels things deeply and is able to respond with emotion.

I had a friend once who told me that she hated for her kids to see her cry. I think a lot of moms feel that way, but I personally struggle a bit with that opinion. If our children (and especially our daughters) never see us cry when we're happy, sad, angry, joyful, at a loss for words, what do they learn from us? I think that they learn to squelch a part of the beautiful heart that God has given them. I think they learn to steel themselves, and learn to be tough instead of tender...and I believe that violates the very way that God created them. I think that when we allow our children to see our tears, it communicates tenderness and mercy and warmth and love, and reflects the face of God.

8 comments:

debra said...

tears are good.

Kecia said...

I thank God for your tender heart! We cry as a family watching Extreme Makeover, Home Edition. Except maybe Mikayla, who when our last dog died said, "Well, at least we won't have to pick up poop anymore. Can we get a cat?" You encourage me that there's still hope for her...:)

Lindsay said...

Excellent insightful post. Tears are great and very healing. Glad to see your barriers to expressing emotions coming down. Neat when our kids see us expressing them... great role model for them.

CrownLaidDown said...

Our children see me and Chris cry...sometimes, we are deeply touched, sad, worried or laughing so hard the tears fall.

It is cleansing to cry, I think.

Well said and well-lived Friend!

I'm glad He has come and done a mighty work to bring a Gift of tears!

carrie said...

Thanks for sharing this, Meredith. I'm already thinking about that with my young son. I'm an "F" through and through and hope my son will be able to acknowledge his emotions honestly both within himself and with others!

Mindy said...

Hi. I just came across your blog and thought I would say hi.
As I was reading this post, I had to kind of laugh because my hubs and I are total opposites too -- our Myers- Briggs are
ENFP (me) and ISTJ (him)
I just thought that was sort of funny. Nice to meet you!
In HIM -
Mindy

Julie said...

Hi... I just came across your blog through The Simple Wife and wanted to let you know that I love this post! I am a stay at home mom with three children (ages 8, 6, 3) and I also consider myself tender-hearted. My daughter is the exact same way and feels things very deeply. Sadly, growing up as a child, my parents always discouraged crying and I never really felt I had permission to cry. My husband and I have made a point to let our children know it is okay to cry!

mjpurdy(at)stny(dot)rr(dot)com

Susan said...

I was a strong-girl, too. Unable/unwilling to show my (well-hidden) tender side. Except to and for animals...for some reason that was more acceptable. Once I started having children, God decided enough was enough and He began to force me to embrace my tender side. Easy to do with children, whether they are little or teens (oh...so many tears during these teen years!). I still struggle with letting my emotions show. He has sent me four amazing women to help me do it. One cries over EVERYTHING. And she's totally unconcerned about it! It used to so irk me and now...she gets me crying too. I'm glad we are allowing ourselves to embrace and respond to the tender side that He blessed us with.

<3 Susan