I arrived at my mother’s apartment to find her arm flayed open and poorly bandaged. She’d had another brush with the rounded edge of the countertop in her kitchen. My mother gives new meaning to the word “thin-skinned.” At 90, her skin has become so thin that just to brush up against a smooth solid object can tear her skin like tissue paper. It’s happened too often, and it’s incredibly painful. We washed, treated, and bandaged it, and now it will take a long time to heal. Skin like hers doesn’t re-grow as quickly as it once did, and wounds don’t heal in a day.
It got me thinking about the pain we experience who are “thin-skinned” emotionally. How often I’ve heard others being called “thin-skinned” as a kind of accusation. I’ve had the accusation leveled at me many times: too sensitive, too easily hurt! People tend to say it as if we who were in pain were the problem, not their words or actions. “Thin-skinned” is thrown at people like a judgment that they are found too weak, too wanting. But I don’t believe a “thin skin” marks a person as weak or lacking in strength. I believe it’s indicative of a person whose heart is sensitive. We need hearts to be sensitive; I do not want the world peopled with calloused hearts. We can’t afford much more of calloused hearts in this troubled world.
We all have been wounded, our skin “thinned” by a history of judgments and cruelty (whether intended or not) that hurt us. Our thoughtless actions or words aren’t the first blow to tender skin but more likely come after many prior cuts and scrapes, and every wounded place in us is diminished in its capacity to endure more wounding. I try to remember this. I wish I remembered it more quickly than I sometimes do.
Where do I hear the Holy One in all this? I hear the urgent call for all of us to be more kind, less judging, more tender in how we treat each other. I hear a call to care for each other. I feel the strong desire and hope for healing, and the responsibility laid on all of us to give each other the space, the healing medicine, and the tender care our wounded selves need.
I get so busy, so rushed, that sometimes (too often!) I forget all that. But yesterday I remembered. So today I pray for all those whose skin has been laid back by too quick a word of criticism, too cruel a witty or thoughtless remark, too judgmental a look, or by an act of unkindness and disrespect. I pray they may heal, that we all may heal, more quickly than we dare to hope, and that more of us will slow down, look kindly, and treat with respect and care the walking wounded.
For we are all the walking wounded.
Blessings on you tonight, and tomorrow, and every day. May you walk in peace, meet kindness, and be whole.