"You're going to have to just get a thick skin," is something I have been told more times than I care to count.
"This is a rough job," one of the attorneys I worked with told me. "You will be called names, cussed at, spit on, probably even hit. You're gonna have to have a thick skin, kid."
He was right, but being a criminal investigator didn't require as thick of a skin as other areas of life has. It was just the first one.
Granted, it's because I am probably too tenderhearted for my own good. I've hid it well over the years, developing a veneer of sarcasm and jaded cynicism that has proved to reflect most of life's cruelties fairly well.
Until it dawned on me developing that so-called ‘thick skin' has caused a lot of my own inner compassion to fade.
I realized it when talking with my own little tenderhearted child one evening. Cole was telling me how another child at school had hurt his feelings but wouldn't elaborate as to why.
"I don't want to hurt your feelings if I tell you," he explained gently.
"How would it hurt my feelings?" I asked.
"Because, Mama, what he said was about you."
"That's OK, Cole," I began. "Mama can take it. I've got a pretty thick skin."
He sighed then proceeded to tell me, against his better judgment.
"Remember when you took me to school a few weeks ago, on Halloween? And you were dressed up?" I nodded. I went as Abby from "NCIS."
"Well, this boy said you looked like a clown. He was really mean about it."
"Oh Cole," I said, rubbing his head. "Baby, that doesn't hurt my feelings at all. I went as a character, that's all."
"But he was saying you should have waited 'til you got to work to dress up and you shouldn't have worn that in public and how awful you were for dressing up."
"Cole, that's the least that's been said about me, trust me," I tried to reassure him.
"It may not hurt your feelings, but it hurt mine," Cole said.
True to my jaded self, I had an acid-laced comeback to give Cole to snap back with on the next occasion, but something stopped me from sharing it.
"Well, maybe his mother doesn't dress up for Halloween," I offered.
Cole was quiet for a few minutes.
"No, she's in the hospital; she couldn't even take him trick or treating. Maybe that's why he was mean to me."
Cole thought a bit longer.
"He's probably sad. I should try to be a friend to him. He may need one right now."
All the years of developing a callous around my spirit and emotions started to fade with that gentle expression.
Maybe instead of getting a thicker skin, we'd all be better off if we tried a little tender-heartedness instead.
Sudie Crouch is an award-winning humor columnist and certified life coach. She lives in the north Georgia mountains with her family and four insane but fairly well-behaved dogs.