“Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart. You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world. You are willing to share your heart with others.” —Chögyam Trungpa
Forgive me, for I am still sometimes a wretched little one, but with a wild one within who tickles my heart and tenderly cracks it wide open.
I was born from a generation and to a family that showed little mercy for a raw and beautiful heart—I soon learned to hide my tender little soul.
I learned to survive in a rough-and-tumble, fear-filled little world, where unkindness was common enough, where emotions were often manipulatively managed, and anger sometimes fueled brute force.
“Treat your anger with the utmost respect and tenderness, for it is no other than yourself. Do not suppress it—simply be aware of it. Awareness is like the sun. When it shines on things, they are transformed. When you are aware that you are angry, your anger is transformed.” —Thich Nhat Hanh
A clear choice came to me. I could either let life harden my heart and fill it with sadness, resentment and anger, or I could be fearless (just face my fears) and allow my heart to soften and be open to tenderness, vulnerability, and love.
I searched for and luckily discovered a different kind of world where hearts were shared. I quietly observed those who thrived within it for as long as it took me, and then simply smiled at this new world. I abandoned my futile resistance, a sad sense of comfort from the familiar, and gladly faced it—my fear was unfounded in this wonderful world.
For a while, though, I lived a double life of sorts, keeping my heart closed while living in the old, familiar, fearful world, and opening my heart completely the minute I stepped back into the brave new world I’d discovered, the people who showed me how to fearlessly open myself to tenderness, vulnerability, and love.
It didn’t take me long, though, to realize that this duality (closed/open, hard/soft, fear/love) was like prison furlough. I was an innocent and chose to completely free myself, to live full-time in love. I chose to leave the fearful people in my life, and I welcomed the fearless people into it.
Allow Life to Soften Your Heart, Not Harden It
We are naturally born to survive, to seek shelter and safety. And as we are nurtured, we thrive. We live happily because we are loved and we love in turn. Life experiences can be hurtful, harmful, and even horrific. Some become hardened, while others soften. The choice is here, right now.
Be as Tender and Vulnerable as an Open Wound
We all have this same soft spot, no matter how compassionate or indifferent, or kind or cruel we’ve been or choose to be. Tenderness does not discriminate and has no prejudice. It is here for all of us, and we are free to choose it. This raw openness allows us to truly love and be loved.
Feel the Sadness We All Share, Deeply and Freely
We sometimes want to close our eyes and hearts to sadness and suffering. It’s painful to see because when we see it, we actually feel it. This is good because when we feel our shared sadness, when we understand suffering, we naturally want to help. Then we do. Cultivating compassion helps us all.
Feel the Happiness We All Share, and Joyfully So
When hearts are closed and hardened, happiness cannot enter. Some find it hard to feel the peaceful, profound happiness we all share, joy. Some take life for granted, hold onto past pain and sorrow, or feel undeserving. We can choose to enjoy the good in life and rejoice in moments of shared happiness.
When we live in fear, whatever we fear might happen when we open up to tenderness and vulnerability, it’s impossible to open our hearts to love. But once we choose to do it, to be fearless (or at least face our fears), the possibilities that tenderness and vulnerability bring are limitless.
So try a little fearless tenderness. It’ll open your heart and soul to a world of love.