Type to search

Without Sadness, There Would Be No Tenderness

Featured Health Lifestyle & Science Loves and Lives

Without Sadness, There Would Be No Tenderness

Avatar photo

John Michael’s newest Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise column, “Without Sadness, There Would Be No Tenderness,” supports adding more kindness and affection to our days. 

I was headed up the Clearwater River to a community feed in the small town of Lapwaii. I stopped along the river, collected some small colorful rocks, and skipped some flat smooth stones across the river’s surface. Then, I sat in my car and napped for about 15 minutes. As I was coming out of my sleep, I saw an image of my phone. Along with a bunch of other apps, there was one called, “Affection.” In the image, I kept trying to tap the “Affection” app to make it come up.

I took it as a sign that affection was the goal for my heart and that I was still struggling to get there. I saw the Dalai Lama several years back and he used the word “affection” several times as something that kids and humans need to reduce fear.

Kind and affectionate would be a lovely way of being in the world, it is certainly needed now when many seem to have learned fear, anger, and grief are the best tools to navigate these days.

I’ve been encountering a lot of my own childhood grief and anger since I’ve mostly processed out of my survival fears and fight or flight responses.

Also on The Big Smoke

I love our local rivers and just a few nights ago was driving after dark on the windy Snake River Road. I was thinking about how I wanted to live with my dad for a while after my parents’ divorce because my mom’s depression was overwhelming for me. I never had the courage to ask.

As I continued to drive, I heard the young boy in me saying to my dad, “I hate you right now for not being around enough.” I never said anything close to that as a kid, but evidently, I was feeling it. I was surprised to feel some tears roll down my cheeks.

I was feeling a little emotionally overwhelmed yesterday, had some small panics and just got too impatient with myself. So, I distracted myself by entering the political fray on Twitter. The old me was clever, cynical, and cutting. These are some of the things stopping me from living in kindness and affection. After some back and forth, the conversation turned incredibly nasty and I thought, Why am I even in this? and then I deleted all my tweets.

Without sadness, there would be no tenderness, was an unbidden thought I had a few days ago. I’m never sure about anything, but this appears to be true. The more I allow myself to grieve my past and grieve the losses that come along for everyone during a life, the more tender my heart feels. Kindness and affection are what flow from a tender heart.

The more I allow myself to grieve my past and grieve the losses that come along for everyone during a life, the more tender my heart feels. Kindness and affection are what flow from a tender heart.

When I arrived in Lapwaii, there were a couple of teenage boys out in front of the dinner hall. They asked me for cigarettes, which I declined to provide, and they had a smart answer for everything I said. I was feeling affectionate and the anxiety that would normally propel me to take charge of the situation and lecture the kids on manners was missing. Lecturing kids is never helpful, but it is how adults usually respond. My every response was a kind one and soon their smart-ass responses died away and we were just kind of hanging out and talking.

I asked them to come in and have some dinner and one of them said, and it kind of broke my heart, “We can’t go in there, we’re the bad kids.”

I responded, and I was a little passionate, “Don’t ever say that about yourself, it’s not true, you’re as good as anyone on the planet.”

They walked off, but I’m praying they heard me just a little.


Avatar photo
John Michael

Hello, good people. I am rarely sure how to describe myself. If I say I am a Christian, many things may arise in your mind that ain't necessarily so. I was homeless for seven years and learned more about myself in that stretch of time than in any other segment of my life. I read the Bible a lot out there and came across a passage in Proverbs that has shaped my approach to life: "A man's pursuit is his kindness." I am well educated with a Master of Social Work degree and have worked a wide variety of jobs in my 52 years. None have lasted too long however. When I was homeless, the beauty of Texas wildflowers made me decide to want to live again. Along with kindness, beauty, play, and self-expression are life-guiding ideas. My shadow contains things like feeling sorry for myself, a truckload of defiance, a desperate need to please women, and no small amount of cruelty. A quote from Luke also has had a lasting effect on me: "For God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." When I read that I thought, "Hell, I have got a fighting chance." I am here to tell you, you have a fighting chance as well. Besides Christianity, practicing Buddhist and Shamanic techniques inform my relationship to God and the world.

You Might also Like