6 May 2016
From birth, our hearts are like construction zones where the work never ends. They begin as open ground, ready for grading. Naked and new, without preconceptions, we invite the emotional equivalent of heavy equipment to burrow its way into us, shaping the foundation for who we become.
Our parents dig first and, if we’re lucky, their excavations shore us up with supports that extend deep into bedrock. Construction expands, exposing us to other family and friends. Some of our rooms are made for the public, while others we save for our innermost thoughts. Educators arrive, erecting spaces where knowledge can either wither or thrive. And just when we think we’ve made actual progress, society comes along and blasts holes in our walls, forcing us to rebuild all our boundaries.
This lifelong process never ceases, and how our hearts look in the end depends on various factors such as the people around us, our innate resilience, and the experiences that have slowly but surely defined us. In short, our emotional structures are not only the product of who we are at the outset, but also of what others stamp on our souls.
Sadly, many people either do not or cannot comprehend that their actions and words shape the lives of everyone around them. Perhaps they’re not equipped to look outside themselves. Perhaps their abilities were molded badly or else scarred by their own formative years. We all know someone who goes through life oblivious to the carnage they leave in their wake. In all likelihood, we know several such someones. They’re human wrecking balls, and they can never be changed. For most of us, it takes decades to learn how to identify this type in the wild. Deflecting them poses a whole other challenge.
And that’s the brutal reality: when it comes to these folks, deflection is key to preserving your carefully-built heart. You can’t stop a wrecking ball—it’s huge, unfeeling, and has too much momentum. If you let it inside your structure, it becomes the proverbial bull in the shop, cutting a wide swath of shattered porcelain. Once you’ve identified this type, you must keep the person at arm’s length. Allow them only restricted access, erect a tall chain link fence around your construction site, and be sure to post clear signage:
“Keep Out.” “Hard Hats Only.” Visitors Must Register at the Site Manager’s Office.”
Above all, under no circumstances must you let yourself think you can alter the wrecking ball’s trajectory. You will only get sucked into their parallel dimension, and no amount of effort will save your heart from destruction.
It’s a hard—and some might say cynical—lesson to learn, but best to learn it young. I wish I had. Perhaps then I might not have succumbed so often to emotional carnage. Perhaps my heart’s construction might be further along at this point. Instead, it took me decades to gather the right safety features.
Well, I’ve finally installed them:
Fences. Rules. Cool, calm perspective. A thick skin and tough spine. A firm grip on reality. And especially reason.
That’s not to say I can prevent all future wrecking balls from smashing my structure, but maybe at last I’ve learned to restrict their access.
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