When your heart finally overpowers your fears

The heart is the thing that keeps us alive—as long as it’s pumping, we’re good.

But it’s also the thing that can lead us and think for us.

It’s definitely not always easy to be vulnerable with people. In fact, it can straight up make you feel weak. When you offer the truthful thoughts in your heart to someone, you risk quite a few things: rejection, judgment, apathy, and insincerity, among others. But you also risk that person actually caring—genuinely caring.

What if we shared what’s in our hearts? What if we were completely honest and didn’t worry so much about what would happen if we shared true feelings? Would that really be such a bad thing?

She’s had my heart since Day 1

When my oldest niece was a precious little newborn, I was going through a pretty tough time. I haven’t always been the best about sharing my feelings, but it was really easy with her. I would hold her in my arms and tell her everything going on in my life and my heart, and I knew there was zero judgment or possibility that she would hurt me. If she started wailing, I knew it would be because she was crying with me and for me. Sure, she was just a tiny baby and couldn’t use actual words to respond to me, but it didn’t matter—I trusted her with my whole heart. She’s 3 now, and we still have those deep heart conversations. She just gets me.

I realize that it’s likely not wise to share every feeling with every single person you meet, but I still don’t believe that it’s wrong to be honest when people ask you how you are, even if don’t know them. And I know that we are to guard our hearts, but I think there’s a difference between protecting it from evil and completely shielding it from letting anyone in or sharing its hopes and passions and truths.

I think most of my pics are with them nowadays, and I’m good with that.

So why do we spend so much of our lives living in fear of what will happen if we share the things that are in our hearts? Yeah, we might experience heartache, we might have our hearts shattered to a thousand tiny little pieces, we might get hurt, we might cry, we might experience emotions that we weren’t expecting, and people might make fun of us. But people might love us back. People might return the feelings. People might show how much they care. People might share their hearts, too.

Whether a bad or good outcome happens, isn’t it better to take a chance than to spend your life constantly wondering what if and if only?

I spent far too many years hiding my feelings and not taking risks that I probably should have taken. I can think of more than one instance when I had the opportunity in a perfect moment to share my heart with someone, and, instead, I shied away and kept my words hidden in the depths of my heart. I look forward to the day when I can stand before the man who captures my heart and tell him that I love him with a real love that’s forever and always. That’s something I’ll want him to know, and I’m not going to let myself chicken out to tell him. That fearful girl isn’t here anymore.

One of my favorite episodes of The Office is “Casino Night” because it’s the first time that Jim declares his love for Pam. No, it doesn’t work out for him in that moment, and he walks away with a shattered heart. Had he not told her in that beautiful scene in the parking lot, though, she likely never would have called off her wedding with Roy and later shared all of her feelings with Jim after she ran across the coal fire pit at the beach.

Yes, I realize that not everyone ends up like Jim and Pam, but at least they can give some of us hope.

Just livin’ with my heart over here

I’ve learned that you have to stop caring what other people think if you want to be completely comfortable and confident being you. You’re not someone else’s opinion of you, so why even give another person the power to dictate your thoughts and actions?

Don’t be afraid to share what’s in your heart. You have the feelings you have for a reason, and you don’t have to keep them hidden away forever. It’s OK to be honest, and it’s OK to be brave. And it’s certainly OK to lead with the desires God places in your heart.

Because, like Selena Gomez wisely says, the heart wants what it wants.

When people truly care for each other

When you genuinely care about someone, there’s an unspoken trust and assurance that you would do whatever is in your power to love and protect that person.

Especially when it comes to matters of the heart.

My two nieces are two of my best friends. I would do absolutely anything for those little gems, and I can’t even accurately describe the amount of joy that fills my heart each time I get to spend precious moments with them. I’ve talked before about how much Olivia changed my life when she was born three years ago, and both of them continue to impact me in more ways than I can explain.

They’re the actual cutest.

I was recently at their house watching a fairy movie with them, and Olivia was sitting in my lap because she had hurt her foot. Sweet little Evie has taken up pinching as a new hobby and began pinching and slapping my legs. She’s too cute for me to get upset about it, and it didn’t actually hurt, but I also don’t want her pinching and hitting other people because her aunt let her do it, so I reminded her that it’s not nice to do so.

And then something happened that made me actually want to cry.

Olivia began defending me and putting her hands and arms and legs and everything she could between Evie’s tiny hands and my legs. (Precious Evie thought it was a game and began giggling and trying to get around Olivia.) When Evie slapped my knees, Olivia would kiss them to try to make them better. I put my hand to my heart to see if it was still functioning properly because I thought maybe it had actually melted. Once again, even though I’m the adult, that adorable little human took care of me.

There’s something about genuine love that changes people.
That heals people.
That gives hope to people.
That removes doubt.
That removes fear.
That wipes away tears.
That reminds the heart why it beats.

We aren’t anyone else’s opinion of us.

There are far too many ways that people in this world can feel neglected and unloved. While we may have people in our lives who will help shield us from pinching and slapping, there are times when we’ll feel much more exposed to people’s words and actions that hurt our hearts more than anything else. What’s important to remember in those moments, though, is that we aren’t other people’s opinions of us.

Which is something you might need to remind yourself of often if you use a dating app.

A month or so ago, I went out with a guy who said he wanted to go out again and then texted me the same thing later, and then I never heard from him again. But I’m not his opinion of me. I once had a guy find out that I don’t drink, and he said “hard pass” on me. But I’m not his opinion of me. I’ve been ghosted more than once. But I’m not their opinions of me. My friend was downright stood up and never heard from the guy who was supposed to me her. But she’s not his opinion of her.

Just like you aren’t anyone else’s opinion of you.

This pic is super old, but it always reminds me how loved and cared for I truly am.

It feels nice when people show you that they care about you, which is another reason why I think it’s so essential that we show people that we care about them—so that they know without a doubt that they are valued, that they are loved, and that they matter. When I was talking to my students last week about respecting one another, I reminded them that it takes a lot less energy to be kind to someone than it does to be mean. I don’t even know if that’s scientifically accurate, but it makes sense to me, so that’s what I told them. Sure, sometimes showing you care takes effort, but like my mom told me, the more you do it, the more natural it becomes to you.

As I sat there the other day with Olivia on my lap, I realized that the way she defended me is the way Jesus defends me every day. He swoops in and heals my wounds and genuinely cares about and loves me. Does that mean that pain won’t ever happen and that broken hearts will mend as quickly as I want them to? As much as I wish that were the case, no. But it does mean that I can live with the certainty that He’s always fighting for me, and my identity is found in Him—not in other people or in what they think of me.

And that’s all the assurance that I’ll ever need.

Because we all have our own unique ways of healing

The healing process is an interesting thing because it looks completely different for everyone.

Especially when it’s your heart that needs mending.

I adore every second with my nieces. They’re the actual most precious humans alive, and I can’t be convinced otherwise. Olivia, who is almost 3, is getting smarter and smarter each time I see her, and I swear that her vocabulary increases 13-fold every week.

Highlight of my week every week

That little angel has been teaching me so many things about life since the day she entered this world. When she was born, I was going through one of the most difficult periods of my life and wasn’t very good about dealing with all of the emotions I felt. I was hurt and betrayed and felt so many more things that I couldn’t quite process. She had colic, so I would hold her in my arms while she wailed, and I would tell her everything that was on my heart. I told myself that the tears she couldn’t help but cry were partially shed for me, since I wasn’t able to let me own fall.

In the moments when we were together and the colic wasn’t as bad, she would quietly listen to all that I had to say, and I like to think that she was giving me some pretty solid words of comfort and affirmation in her head. I heard ya, girl.

Now that she’s older, she’s able to feel people’s pain for them and shows a genuine concern when she thinks someone is hurting. When I was spending time with them on Saturday, Olivia saw a Band-Aid on my knee and said that she needed one, too. I was changing Evie’s diaper and said I’d get her one as soon as I was finished. Olivia then jumped on a pillow and yelled “owie!” and grabbed her knee and said again that she needed a Band-Aid.

We went through about seven different Band-Aids because she kept changing her mind on whether she wanted Dory or Nemo, and she wasn’t happy with me that those were the only options in my purse. I told her that my Wonder Woman ones were at home, and Avengers were in my work desk, but she eventually was happy with Dory. It’s funny, though, because her knee “wound” must have transferred to her arm, because that’s where the Band-Aid ended up after she had removed three or four from her knee.

Just over here putting Band-Aids on legs with no owies to stop tears

At one point, Evie started crying, so Olivia took her used Band-Aid and put it on Evie’s leg, saying “Sugar needs one—she’s sad.” OH, MY HEART. I love the innocent simplicity of her logic: Someone is hurting, and there’s an easy way to make the pain go away. There’s no overthinking anything or worrying about if you’re actually going to be OK. Instead, you just put a Band-Aid over the pain, and it somehow makes it feel better.

I wish that it were always that easy.

I wouldn’t describe myself as being good at dealing with pain. In fact, my strategy is usually to ignore it. I once ran a half marathon on a fractured hip because I didn’t want to acknowledge an injury. I also went an entire day at work with a giant kidney stone trying to travel through my body because I figured that the pain would go away if I ignored it long enough. It didn’t work, and I ended up having two surgeries because that stone was too big and got stuck and created some issues.

I tend to do the same with emotional pain—I ignore it as long as possible until I can’t anymore. It’s not really the best idea, because I usually end up not letting myself cry when I should, so all of my emotions bottle up, and then I turn into Niagara Falls when my tear ducts can’t contain the tears anymore. As much as I don’t like to admit it, I’m pretty sure that it’s not healthy.

Healing looks different for everyone, and there’s really no set timetable for how long it takes each person. You may have a broken bone that takes nine weeks to heal, while someone else’s only takes six. Your broken heart may feel like it’s never going to mend, while your friend was able to bounce back pretty quickly after a breakup. You may need to throw rocks at a building when you’re going through heartache, while your friend might need to lie on the couch and wallow.

When I was a young kid, I had a horrible wipeout when I got going too fast while riding a steep downhill and hit a divot in the sidewalk. I still have a bad scar from it, and I remember there being a lot of blood. I honestly don’t remember a ton about the pain, but I do remember that my mom made me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and suddenly everything was OK. It’s like there was a powerful healing love in that sandwich that made the hurting disappear.

When I moved to California, for me, healing meant sitting on a lifeguard tower and staring out at the ocean. It’s where I felt the most peace. It’s where I felt the Lord’s presence most strongly and was reminded of just how big and powerful His love and grace are. It’s where I was reminded of the vast expanse of the ocean and how small I am in comparison to it, yet how significant I still am to the God who created the ocean and everything in it—and the same God who also created me.

It’s kind of like those moments of solitude on Tower 13 were giant Band-Aids for my heart.

I’ve learned that comparisons are usually not healthy. Whether you’re comparing yourself to other people or to yourself from years ago, you’re likely going to create your own feelings of inadequacy by doing so. But you are who you are on purpose and with purpose, and you’ve taken the journey you have with intention, as well—including the pain you’ve faced and the healing you’ve gone through to be rid of it.

Surrounding yourself with good people helps, too.

I wish that Olivia’s tactics were always effective and that putting a Band-Aid on your leg or arm would make all of your pain go away. Whatever your healing looks like—whether it’s a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or paying money to go break things in a giant rooms (very therapeutic) or eating ice cream in your pajamas or a number of other activities you can do to take your mind off of what you don’t want to think about—it’s unique to you and what you need. Don’t feel like you have to do things the way someone else did, and don’t worry if it takes longer than you thought or hoped it would. You’ll get there eventually, and hopefully you’ll remember what made you heal more than you’ll remember the pain itself.

And you’ll likely be grateful that you went through everything you did to get to where you are now.