I once heard a speaker say these words in working with college athletes. At the core, this is a great picture of grace and forgiveness. We should pray for a soft heart toward others – listening to what is being said and listening to what is not being said. We should listen to understand…seeking to understand simply because we love others. In the end, we may not truly understand; but in trying to understand, we learn the concerns, fears, hopes, and values of those around us.
Praying for thick skin may sound harsh, but the reality is that relationships and loving others well sometimes gets very messy. In order to stay engaged in any type of relationship, we eventually have to show some grace and forgiveness. Having thick skin isn’t about being right, nor is it about allowing others to take advantage of you. Having thick skin is really knowing the difference between the big issues and the small issues. Our skin should be thick enough to deflect the small issues – put another way, our capacity to offer grace should be large enough to contain the small issues. But what about the large issues? When should we say enough?
Some individuals are so very broken that they can’t/won’t/don’t take responsibility for their own actions. Sometimes it’s a defense mechanism in order to not further damage their fragile self-esteem. Sometimes it’s simply a lack of maturity – lashing out at those who attempt to love them. When we encounter those who have a very different worldview, the only way we can sustain a relationship with them is by having a soft heart and thick skin. That’s what I’m praying for.