Tag Archives: Heart

What’s In a Smile?

I see that smile, almost full size yet not quite as wide as it should; a touch of sadness in the corners weighing them down, not much but just enough. What’s in that smile that that looks so heavy? Smiles are not meant to carry burdens, they are meant to set them free. I see that smile you struggle to raise and I’m left with a feeling it needs a friend, a friend that understands that sometimes a smile has a past to lift.

I see that smile so slow to appear, not much but just a bit. A little hesitation as if seeking permission “Is this face allowed to smile?” What’s in that smile that makes it pause? What does it say of the heart beneath? Does that heart of yours stall, believing it hasn’t yet earned the right, the right to smile? I see that smile and I’m left with a feeling that it needs a light, just a little, enough to show your heart the way is clear.

I see that smile almost reach your eyes, almost but not quite. It seems to try so hard, wanting to ignite that spark. Yet as much as it tries it never quite hits your eyes. What’s in that smile that holds it back? What’s on your mind that pushes it down? It seems so pale without the eyes and those eyes they still search, for what I know not. I see that smile and I’m left with a feeling that it needs a hand to hold, a hand to remind you that hope had never left.

I see that smile, a smile I’ll never remember. Faceblind I be yet blind I am not. How I wish I could remember these smiles, just one, that would be enough. Instead it fades with the turn of my head. So I ask myself what’s in a smile I can never recall. All I can remember are the feelings it ignites. It’s the one thing you can never hide, those feelings in your smile. Be they distaste, hurt, joy or bliss the smile displays it all. They say your eyes are windows to the soul but your smile, your smile leads straight to your heart. So I wish I could remember a smile but I’d rather remember your heart.

So what’s in a smile?

Only your heart, and yes it still beats.

Photo thanks to Leonid Mamchenkov

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Reason Should Rule, But Guard Thy Heart From Stone

We have all experienced those times when our emotions get away from us, the times we get more excited by something than we should, the breakup that takes longer to get over than is “normal”, a bubbling anger and frustration at seemingly little things. It’s something we start learning to control from the age of two, from the time our parents coach us as we kick and scream on the floor. Other times we find we aren’t as emotional as we expect ourselves to be, the new promotion you just can’t work up any enthusiasm about it, a first date that barely seems to excite you or a series or fortunate events that fly right past you with barely a glance. Psychologists call this emotional self-regulation, “the ability to respond to the ongoing demands of experience with the range of emotions in a manner that is socially tolerable…”1

“The heart never takes the place of the head, but it can, and should obey it.”

St Augustine had this coined as “ordo amoris” the order of love. There is a natural order to the degree in which affections should be attached to every object and situation which is appropriate. That is you do not attach a deep abiding hatred to a stone nor do you consider your affections for another as trivial. This is where reason should and must step in. “The heart never takes the place of the head, but it can, and should obey it.”2

In today’s world some of us seem to have forgotten this lesson of old. Those who have trouble seem to have fallen into three categories – The immature, those unable to take responsibility for their feelings; the intellectuals, those who think feelings should be managed, dealt with and hidden from view, and finally the zombies, those who have numbed both heart and mind. It doesn’t need to be like this, we are meant to experience feeling in its entire glorious color, that’s why we have a heart. We are meant to judge whether those feelings are valid for the situation and act accordingly, that’s why we have our minds, and neither should be ignored, dulled or let reign uncontrolled.

We have a heart for a reason. It’s the part of us that makes life shine. When we love, laugh and live in the moment feelings brighten our way. When we find our passions feelings drive us to places we never thought we could go. When we lose and grieve feelings show us the importance we placed on those people we lost, they show us that we have a hole that needs filling. When we are hurt feelings show us the lessons we need to learn, when we are scared and afraid feelings show us the dragons we need to conquer and point the way forward to become greater than we were before. We need our heart, it’s important, without it there is neither reason nor point to life. We may as well be automatons repeating the same things over and over again.

Yet we have our mind for a reason, for reasoning. It’s the part that should tell the heart that losing 10 dollars is only annoying, not the end of the world. The mind is the side of us that, when the heart falls in love, looks to see if those affections are well placed. The side that understands the reasons behind grief, loss, fear, hurt and anger and either does something to fix these feelings or soothes the heart with whispers of the way things might be. The mind is the part of us that says any given feeling is appropriate, I’m allowed to feel the way I am because this is what life is all about. It’s our regulator for dealing with the outside world. It shouldn’t be forgotten when we are in the grips of strong emotion, nor should it be used to stir up emotion by overthinking or intellectualizing. When we see people who have let their heart rule, this is what we think, why can’t you use your mind to regulate your heart. Yet as everyone knows, sometimes that isn’t always as easy as it looks.

Reason should rule but not with an iron fist.

But guard thy heart from stone. Reason should rule but not with an iron fist. It should not ignore the heart and minimize the hearts feelings. That way leads to a world that is grey and lifeless, without wonder or joy. Years will be spent searching for happiness when the answer lays beating in your own chest. If it continues for long enough the heart stops, ignored for so long it has no reason to continue to beat. You can’t numb your heart of just one feeling; when you do you numb all your feelings. When your heart stops and turns to stone you become that robot, imitating life never really knowing why. If you ever come to the crossroads where you are faced with the choice of numbing the heart or feeling incredible pain, choose the pain, for if you can feel pain you can also feel the good things, things such as love, laughter and joy. They may not be evident at the time but they are there and ready to be felt, but only if you don’t numb the heart.

Practice finding “ordo amoris”, the order of love; all feelings are valid in and of themselves, but not all feelings are valid in intensity for the context you are in. Use your mind to show your heart the intensity it should be feeling if it is awry. Use your heart to show the mind the reason for living. Most of all use them both but do not let the heart rule.

Photo: Flickr/Eva Blue

Footnote
1. Emotional Self Regulation
2. C.S Lewis, 1943, The Abolition of Man

Originally published at the Good Men Project

Photo: Flickr/Eva Blue

Who Wears The Pants? Shouldn’t You Be Naked?

Image thanks to Getty Images

In every relationship there is always a power dynamic; who wears the pants so to speak. Sometimes just in public, and sometimes in private as well, but it is almost always there. No one wants to face the world naked, so we all clothe ourselves as protection against what the world can throw at us. There are so many jokes about husbands and wives and who really wears the pants and these jokes they ceased to be funny long ago. These jokes though, they overlook one important fact about relationships, that they’re partnerships and if we clothe ourselves against our partners then we protect ourselves from our partner seeing us for who we really are.

He concedes ground and sacrifices his own needs in the face of her desires, and always he is left as the last in their relationship.

I know a couple, they seem to be in love, but I suspect they are drifting apart. You see Jill wears the pants in this relationship; she is vocal in her displeasure and forceful with her needs and wants. James is, well not so much. He will back down when he had every right to do whatever earned her displeasure, he concedes ground and sacrifices his own needs in the face of her desires, and always he is left as the last in their relationship. She clothes herself in righteousness, she worked hard, she deserves to have her desires met, she is entitled to the respect she spent years earning. Yet she forgets, forgets a partnership requires her to listen to the person who follows. He clothes himself in resentment, resentment at being ignored, and resentment about the things he needs but can never get. He forgets he defines the boundaries of his own self-respect. Finally he turns away from her in resentment as she turns away from him to do what she wants. She wears the pants, and neither is naked, and so the relationship drifts further apart.

I know a couple, they seem to be in love, but I suspect they are tearing each other apart. They both wear the pants in this relationship. John is a corporate shark by day and everything is a negotiation, as long as he always gets what he wants. Jack is a builder, a man’s man; he takes nothing from no-one as long as everyone knows it’s his way or the highway. When together they always argue, Jack never negotiates and John never takes the highway. Anything and everything is a battle which neither can win nor lose. As close as they want to be, their clash of wills continually tears them apart. John clothes himself in mistrust, always suspicious of Jack and the fact Jack never gives ground, because John forgets he is in a partnership. He forgets that Jack isn’t the opposition and both are negotiating for a good relationship, and so he turns away. Jack clothes himself in anger continually frustrated at what he considers undermining tactics because Jack forgets they are partners. That his way and John’s way need to be the same way, and so he turns away. Both wear the pants but neither is naked so slowly the relationship tears at the edges.

I know a couple, they seem to be in love, but they seem to be imploding under the weight of unsaid words. No one wears the pants in this relationship; no one is really sure how they got together in the first place. Jim and Jane are introverts, they love deep conversations about important things, but neither talks about the things that are important to both. Jim desperately wants to hear about Jane’s desires and dreams yet he is afraid to ask. Jane wants to be discovered, understood, to have someone understand who she is, she wants a connection that sets her soul on fire but she doesn’t understand that for this to happen she has to let someone in. So Jim and Jane implode, trying hard to get closer but neither letting the other in. So Jim clothes him neediness trying every way he knows to get past her armor because he has forgotten that the best way into someone’s heart is to show your own, so he turns away. Jane clothes herself in frustration, wishing Jim would just know, hoping Jim would just understand, but she has forgotten that a partner isn’t a mind reader and in her frustration she turns away. Neither wears the pants but neither is naked so the closer they try to pull towards each other the heavier the weight of unsaid words.

They have turned towards each other and only the other has their attention.

I know a couple and they are in love. During the day they fly free and explore the world of their dreams and passions but at night, when they return, they are like two long lost friends reunited with stories and tales to tell. I don’t know who wears the pants in this relationship, when they are together they are naked. When Jarred returns at night, as much as he has his own tales to tell, he misses Jen and wants to hear all that made her happy, sad or buzzing with excitement, so he turns to her and undresses her. A million questions he has, trying to see Jen for who she really is. When Jen returns, as much as she wants to relate all that she experienced during the day, she misses Jarred and wants to hear his stories, his successes and his failures. The very things that made him feel alive. So Jen turns towards Jarred and undresses him, a million questions on her lips trying to see Jim for the man he is. I don’t know who wears the pants in this relationship because when Jen and Jarred are together the rest of us don’t exist, they have turned towards each other and only the other has their attention.

I know the couples above don’t exist, no relationship lives in such a single dimensions. We all have those aspects above and we clothe ourselves as we are want to do. Depending on our loves and fears we can don any of these aspects, sometimes it is necessary. Clothes have a purpose, to protect us from the cold, wind and rain. We wear them because the world is not a place that is always fair or kind and only a fool walks into the world naked. Yet we should remember that when we don our pants that we may be turning away from our partner. The very clothes that protect us from the world outside protect us from the love from our partner. So when you next you joke about who wears the pants in your relationship maybe the joke is on you, because shouldn’t you be naked?

Originally published at the Good Men Project

Have You Seen a Man’s Heart?

Have you seen a man’s heart? Have you glimpsed the depth of emotion and feeling that lies within? I don’t think you have, not truly. You may look at the men of the world and think they are cold unfeeling brutes, to all outward appearances you would be right. A man’s heart is a very dangerous thing, it must be tamed, it must be controlled and at all costs it must be hidden from this world. The very fabric of society would be rent if men were allowed to use their hearts. Every stage of a man’s life our society is bent on ensuring a man’s heart is contained, it’s written so in our fairy tales, in our stereotypes, in our media and in our very thoughts. It is with good reason this must be so and if you feel you have seen a man’s heart be cautious and seek help, for that is a problem that must be resolved.

A man’s heart is a very dangerous thing.

Have you seen a little boy’s heart? So shiny and bright with hopes and dreams for the future, there is nothing this boy can’t do. His heart, so small and yet so large, big enough to feel all the ills and pain in the world around him and small enough to heal quickly. Big enough to show him courage and bravery, to take risks and overcome that which scares him yet tiny enough to be a fragile thing. The world is such a beautiful place to this boy, so wide and large and always another hill to see what lies on the other side. But men do not cry. When such things as a boys tears are loosed upon the world they must be shackled, controlled and converted; competition is the only outlet suitable for that which fills a boy’s heart. He must play societies game and learn how to win the acceptable prizes in life. If you see a boys heart prepare your shackles because such a sight cannot be left unaddressed.

Have you seen a teenage boy’s heart? Full of motion and action, he rebels at the constraints laid upon him and the world is his yet to change. So quickly does he grow, so fast does he see the world for what it is. We fill his mind with tales of knights, dragons and princesses but this is our snare. Oh so carefully do we divert him form learning the truth, that first he must learn to love himself; that love must come from within and it isn’t a prize to win. But men must not touch. At a time when a teenage boy begins to learn of love this should be stymied, strangled and bound. He is a rapist, a pillager, a plunderer and a monster; he will not know the boundaries such needs should have. He may want a simple hug from his mother, an embracing bond between his fellow man and a kiss from his first love but these he cannot have. He can never be trusted with such freedom for he does not know how dangerous he is. If you see a teenage boy’s heart prepare your bindings because such actions cannot go unchecked.

A man with passion cannot be trusted to act in the interests of everyone else.

Have you seen a man’s heart? So slow and sluggish, but oh so strong. With shackles and bindings, still it yet beats. Somehow he maintains his purpose and passion. He is capable of such great things, marvels beyond compare, wonders that never cease. But men must not show weakness. Such willfulness must be enclosed, corralled and caged; a prison in his own mind with bars forged of honor, duty and responsibility. Pain, uncertainty, fear, sadness, inaction and distress have no place in a man for how can we charge him with his roles if we believe him to be human. He must be the first to step in front of danger to protect those he loves, the first to sacrifice himself to provide for his family, the first to bear the pain of ill winds. There is nothing a man should not dare for honor, duty and responsibility and a man with passion cannot be trusted to act in the interests of everyone else. If you see a man’s heart unfettered and free, run.

If you see a man whose heart is free, flee as far and as fast as you can because an encounter with this man will leave you forever changed. A man whose heart is truly free is the most dangerous thing in existance; he is a dreamer, a visionary, an idealist. This is a man who still sees all that is good in the world; he will shine a light on all that you find dim and dark and show you the beauty that lies underneath. This is a man who believes he can make the world a better place; he will touch you with his love for this world and you will believe also that the world can be changed. This is a man who burns with a passion so deep it cannot be extinguished; a man who creates miracles and makes his very dreams come true. Flee because this is a man who has learned to love himself.

Originally posted at the Good Men ProjectHave You Seen a Man’s Heart?

Photo: Flickr/Juliana CoutinhoImage altered