“Tenderfoot.” It’s the western term for a newcomer, a novice, a greenhorn, or for a naïve person who’s got a lot to learn. But never confuse tenderfoot with tender heart. There is a world of difference between their meanings.
For one thing, tender hearts do not come naturally. We must learn to develop tenderheartedness, usually after much suffering (from pain inflicted on us) and regrets (from the pain we’ve inflicted on others). Savagery, anger, ruthlessness, and hatred come naturally to human beings and are far easier to display. Love, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness must be cultivated and require tremendous energy to exercise.
Tenderheartedness does not equate to weakness. By some twisted logic our popular culture interprets “sensitivity to the needs and hurts of others” as weakness. As a result of this perverse reasoning blindness or deafness would make a person stronger. According to this warped thinking we can make ourselves stronger by losing our sense of taste, touch, and smell.
For tenderheartedness and sensitivity constitute a “sixth sense,” an ability to perceive the pain that others feel. Therefore, it empowers us to peer through the mist of our self-centeredness and understand the people around us. Having a tender heart is an attribute that makes us more fit to live and move among our fellow human beings.
Tenderheartedness is not an abnormality but the desirable condition.
Tenderheartedness is not pathological. It’s not something to overcome. It certainly runs counter to our popular culture, which praises egocentrism and self-assertiveness. But how many marriages would survive and thrive if only husbands and wives were more sensitive to each other’s needs? If they were only more considerate of each other? If they only looked out for each other’s interests as much as their own? What a wonderful world we would have if everyone had a tender heart! Think of the hurt that could be avoided. Tenderheartedness is not an abnormality. It’s the desirable condition.
The Scripture states, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
Dear Father in Heaven, please tenderize my heart with Your love and help me to be kind, considerate, and forgiving toward my fellow human beings – just as You are. Amen.