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The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe.
– Joanna Macy, writer and teacher (1929- )
When I first read that quote I thought “Oh, No, another of those namby-pamby, wishy-washy, ‘the world’s a beautiful place’ kind of fluff stuff.”
Then I thought about people with broken hearts. That led inevitably to thinking about people whose hearts apparently had never broken.
That moved me to the startling conclusion that I have never met a person who has not suffered from a broken heart who I have liked. They’re cold, unfeeling. They care little for anyone else, unless the other person can do something to help them or because it’s their duty and it will make them look good.
As co-workers they aren’t much fun, unless you want to retire to a pub after work. They usually have a ready supply of jokes or insults to sling around about people who are having problems. You can’t learn much from them because they don’t care enough to teach anyone else.
While they pride themselves on their parenting skills, it’s not much fun to be their child because they have no idea what a child needs. They do know how to structure family life so they visit the theme parks and drive SUVs and the kids know how to behave because they’re painful to be around when they bitch about the kid not being well mannered.
People whose hearts have been broken open–usually more than once–so they’re never sure they will be able to piece their lives back together again, they care about others. They’re sometimes painful to be around too because they want others to avoid having their hearts broken (little knowing how counter-productive that is to building stability and sensitivity in young people). But they care and they show it.
They’re usually much loved as parents because they know–perhaps their most important and endearing characteristic–how much those they love need to be touched. Touch is a basic human need, though not one well publicized. Those whose hearts have been broken want to hold their loved ones near, which while being awkward sometimes lets their loved ones know how much they are loved.
People whose hearts have been broken are better listeners, especially to others who have problems. They have been there and know that often just listening is the best form of comforting for someone in great need.
They need to be learners more than those whose hearts have never been broken. Rock-hearted people believe they already know as much as they need to know, find learning from someone else humiliating, believe that nothing is true unless it conforms to their personal life experience.
Those whose hearts have been broken know they will never know enough. They know they didn’t know enough to prevent their heart from being broken, so they had better learn more. They never learn the secret (and they shouldn’t) but they learn a great deal more along the way.
Broken hearted people know how to trust, even if it hurts them. Rock hearts never trust anyone fully, which makes them shallow people.
Heart-healed people know how to smile in such a way that they convey both that they feel good and that they want others to share what they feel. They appreciate being happy because they know it never lasts. They also eventually learn that unhappiness never lasts. Life is a cycle of ups and downs and the survivors live it more fully.
The survivors share more of themselves and what they have. They share their love with family and loved ones, but also with strangers, homeless people, lost children, dying aunts, co-workers who are “suddenly single.”
Heartbreak survivors learn that emotions work like a pendulum, the farther they swing to the negative, the greater the potential they have for their emotions to swing the same distance toward happiness, peace and contentment. Hard hearted people may not get angry much, but they don’t have the capacity to enjoy life to the fullest either. They believe that happiness can be bought with money and delight in the acquisition of it.
Those with unbroken hearts like to be bosses because they don’t have the ability to be sensitive to the things that common people enjoy and appreciate. They think they are whole people because they have no experience with being other than like rocks. They believe they are the smart ones and those who get their hearts broken are simply careless with their emotions, that are needless anyway.
People with cobbled-together hearts know how to live whole lives, something they discover before they find themselves at the end of it. Some of the rock hearts never learn that and secretly die with the intention of returning to earth and finding a way to take their money with them wherever they go. It’s all they really have.
I find it easy to like people whose heart has been broken. We share much in common, including our ability to survive. I wouldn’t care if I never met people whose heart has never been broken.
Have you ever wondered about why some kids are so very different from other kids? It’s not just their natures. Part of it is that some kids have never had their hearts broken (yet) so they act like the child version of adult rock hearts. A broken heart is not something you wish on a child, but it makes them different people who live different lives because of it.
Life changes when you get your heart broken. It’s a tough experience, but no one ever promised us that life would be grand. At least they shouldn’t have because it’s not. We grow when we survive the worst that life has to throw at us.
People whose hearts have been broken have a greater capacity for life. But you could never convince the rock hearts of that.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to grow better and stronger people after their hearts have been broken.
Learn more at http://billallin.com