Sunday, October 19, 2014

Confessions of a Highly Sensitive Person

I posted this on my personal blog recently and thought you'd enjoy it too.

I was standing in my kitchen when I worked up the courage to tell my friend Tracy (not her real name) that her words had hurt me. I imagined a heart-felt apology. I would forgive her without hesitation then, after shedding a few tears together, we would drop everything and go out to lunch. Instead, Tracy pointed out that her words probably hurt me because I was a very sensitive person.

She had a point; I was very sensitive and she was abrupt. We both knew that going into the friendship. But as I stood there feeling weak and spineless, I longed to be more like Tracy. When would I learn to toughen up and let harshness roll off my back?

I hated being sensitive. Every time someone attached the word to me (“I know you’re very sensitive”), even if I knew they didn’t mean it as a put-down, I saw myself as a wimp.

When The Passion of the Christ came out and I chose not to see it because I knew I couldn’t handle the violence, I felt like a weak Christian who didn’t have the strength to take in the suffering of my Savior.

When, on the last night of choir practice before leaving Reno, I couldn’t stop the tears because it looked like I might miss out on singing one final Sunday, I felt like a big baby. (Things worked out so I did get to sing with the choir before leaving town. Yay!)

It didn’t matter how many people reminded me, “If you weren’t sensitive, you wouldn’t be able to write the way you do.” I still prayed for a thicker skin.

One thing stopped me from giving in and turning rock hard: I kept remembering that talk with Tracy and how her response made me feel. I did not want to be a person who could hear “Your words hurt me” and not apologize from the bottom of my heart.

The other day I saw a link to the article, “16 Habits of a Highly Sensitive Person.” I immediately read it and started mentally checking off boxes. Feels more deeply: yep. Emotionally reactive, cries easily: guilty! Often hears, “Don’t take things so personally”: definitely in touch with that one. I have a low tolerance for violence, overthink things, take a long time to make decisions … pretty much everything on the list applied to me except the one about preferring to exercise alone. I also don’t mind noise or crowds. But a beautiful thing happened as I felt this connection and shared the link on Facebook—I did not feel at all ashamed of my highly-sensitive status.

How refreshing to know that sensitive is simply the way some of us are wired.

What is so wrong with being sensitive anyway? I realized that some of the habits listed in the article were very nice traits. Isn’t it wise to take time before making a decision, and shouldn’t we be a little bothered by violence? The Bible says to weep with those who weep, so crying easily is really a good thing (although it would be helpful to not burst into tears over little disappointments).

While I do still feel the need to work on my tendency to take things too personally, and I’m thankful that I have grown a thicker skin in many areas, I no longer wish to be like those who have been hurtful.

Jesus wept.

David spewed out every emotion and thought to God.

And God created each of us exactly how He wanted us.

Yes, we do occasionally need to rise above and toughen up a little. No, being sensitive does not give us permission to get out of difficult things, act immaturely, or cower at challenges. What it means is that we have tender hearts, and that is a gift.

Are you a highly-sensitive person? How has God used it for good? What challenges have you had to overcome because of it?


Unknown said...

I love this. I understand completely. I am also a very sensitive person & have thought the same thoughts before. Thank you for sharing. :) if you would like to check out my blog as well it's

Jeanette Hanscome said...

Thanks, Carlie! I will check out your blog.