A friend posted on his blog about the Ten Week Positive Adjective Challenge.
The challenge: Once a week, for 10 weeks, choose one emotionally descriptive word that positively describes my wife.
- As a man, I broke through the boundaries of emotional simplicity and began to explore emotional complexity.
- This challenge forces me to positively define my wife. By doing this, I have to accept what I positively say to be true. Thus, it being written in black and white, the things I write become a permanent fixture here and most likely in the minds of the readers – including her.
- Growth. Always growth.
Since things are difficult in the wake of having one’s second child, I decided to take up his gauntlet and make the attempt. Here is week two.
I would normally classify sensitivity as a bad thing. I, like most males of the Western species, have been taught to regard sensitivity as a weakness. This lesson was hammered into me by open mockery from my peers. So I built up callouses around the parts that I learned were a liability. My wife did not.
My wife is still as sensitive as she has ever been. She is affected by what happens around her and to her and (in a fashion I do not fully understand) to others. She hears about the most recent shooting and is moved. She hears about the terrible day a friend had and wants to help.
Before I go much further, I should define my term. Sensitive, as I am using it, means able to feel when the situation warrants; to empathize with others when they endure something painful. This is the starting point for compassion when it is directed outward. It is diverse in its effects when directed inward.
My wife does both. She feels when things happen to her to a degree that I long ago wrote off as a liability. It is not a liability if it leads to growth, but there is no reliable way to tell the difference between the feelings that lead to injury and those that lead to growth … or both. She empathizes to a degree that I feel I ought, but do not. I see too much and feel it incumbent on me to see all of those things. She cannot, lest she be overwhelmed.
This openness to feel is challenging to me. It is a reminder of what once was true of me — I remember a time when I felt that intensely. It is also calls me to allow myself to feel again. I am not at all certain that sensation can be restored to those places I have allowed to become calloused, but my wife’s sensitivity calls me to find out. It also causes me to reflect, from time to time, on whether or not I really need to subject myself to the barrage of things that evoke feelings in me. Being informed is good, but there is a line beyond which I am no longer being informed, but callousing myself. My wife cannot pass that point and I love her for it.
Her sensitivity calls for a renewal of my own — calloused and neglected as it may be — and reminds me that callouses are the result of subjecting sensitive place to repeated abuses and irritations. And I love this in her, as well.