How to Have an Open Heart When it Doesn't Make Sense
Softness is not weakness. It takes courage to stay delicate in a world this cruel.
I originally published this piece on Medium. It was created from a *self-reflection prompt on the publication, Know Thyself Heal Thyself and was edited with this blog in mind.
"How can I benefit from an open heart?" is a prompt and an impetus for self-reflection. Truthfully, it's been a day of intense wrestling with myself. In part because I don't want to come off as self-righteous. And in part, because the whole idea of living kindly and openly is my heart's yearning. I reach for this because the world we live in doesn't answer the cry of my soul.
What is an open heart?
It is a paradox. It is the heart of a young child with the mindset of a fierce warrior. The child retains innocence, curiosity, and creativity. The warrior protects all the goodness of the child's heart with determination, wisdom, and courage. When the two are in harmony, they create a positive, transforming symbiotic bond.
Problems arise when the warrior and the child disagree on handling cruelty. If harmony creates alignment with goodness, it follows that I am out of alignment when I am at war with myself and everyone else.
I am miserable and divided when the warrior and child are unsynchronized, as they fight against each other to gain dominance. It's not enough to contain the warring within myself. I subconsciously take it to the world where my warrior-child fights with the warrior-child in others.
Admittedly, I am vulnerable in this place. Bit by bit, hurt upon hurt, the heart of the child retreats. Innocence is lost. The warrior becomes embittered. My heart closes. Now I am a contributor to a cruel world. I turn my focus to me and mine. My attitude becomes this: "The world owes me an enormous emotional, spiritual payback because of all the suffering I have incurred."
I say I am seeking justice. But I am lying to myself. In reality, I'm seeking revenge and dominance. It terrifies me to look at this in myself. It scares me to confess this out loud.
How Can I Stay Open?
I find it effective in the healing process to list all the solutions to problems regardless of how ridiculous they seem. So, in answering the question of why I should keep my heart open, there are two:
My friend is the recipient of a great deal of relentless cruelty from a former relationship. Amid tears, she cries, "I don't get it! Why does he keep doing these things? If only for selfish reasons, why doesn't he act decently?"
I can benefit from keeping my heart open—if only for selfish reasons.
In communities where openness is encouraged, I benefit from people's approval, sympathy, and support if I am open. Where candidness is admirable, it is possible to set up a mini kingdom where the illusion of safety and happiness reigns. It is possible to pass off openness as a façade of authenticity. It is an insidious method since both the warrior and the child are determined to be in charge. The result is negative dysfunctional, destructive attitudes and actions.
It is easy to use people to gain their approval, sympathy, and support through faux vulnerability. But like all façades, it is just that: it is an illusion. It is not genuine openness. Instead, it is manipulation, an insidious way for the warrior or the child to be victorious.
There is another option: strive to maintain an open heart. It is not easy. But it is a reward that manifests itself in peace when the child and warrior work together to balance the soul, wellness, and wholeness reign.
Just as I subconsciously take my internal cacophony into the world when I am in disharmony with myself, I also take an open heart when I am at peace. I can't fake this. I don't have to work at it. People feel the energy of openness and love just as they feel the power of walls and hate.
There is a price
An open heart comes with a price: change, choice, and responsibilities:
I must courageously do my internal work.
I must be fearlessly and shamelessly honest with myself.
I must let my guard down.
I must allow myself to acknowledge and feel hurt without retaliation.
Finally, I must learn to make choices where both the warrior and child have a voice.
One of my coolest discoveries is the dawning awareness that I have the power to choose. I am not a victim. Being open-hearted in a world increasingly cruel is not about changing the world; it's about me changing me. I can choose.
The way I see it, it's the only way to create a world where we can live peacefully. The virtues are not stand-alones. They do not operate in a vacuum. To live with an open heart is a virtue that requires the help of all the virtues.
Taking the high road is never easy. But if I—if we want to leave the world a better place, the high road is the only road. We can only take it with an open heart.
Pause for thought:
Do you struggle with an internal warrior-child battle? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
*Many thanks to Diana C. from Know Thyself Heal Thyself on the Medium platform.