How To Grow A Thicker Skin (Or Not)

5

I could tell you to write a book. Subject yourself to all types of criticism. I could say expect that not everyone will agree with you. Some won’t prefer your kind of thinking or literary flair or lack of it. You won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. And when you do accept that, it’s okay. That’s when the skin becomes not-so-see-through.

What lead me to that acceptance is that I too prefer a certain cup of tea. I like Chai and a sharp Earl Gray. For some, Chai is too spicy and Earl Gray is too bitter. But, I like memoir, the honest grit of it. I like that depth of writing; flawed characters and “you can’t make this stuff up” kind of tension. I don’t like trite fiction. I don’t like to be told what to think. Storytelling that is stimulating and challenging helps me make sense of my own reality. Jesus, after all, taught his friends through parables.

Then there are the real-life issues that creative nonfiction reveals. A world full of opportunities, but also oppositions. I wrote a book about my son who has autism. I felt that God led me to write this book. We talk about autism awareness, but as a society, we need to level up on it. Before 1990, the rate was 1 in every 10,000 children were diagnosed. Now, we are at 1 in 59, and the trajectory shows that it will increase. Though my book doesn’t focus on the cause of autism, I do address it in one chapter. Why? Because I am asked that question often: “What do you think caused it?”

I believe it is a man-made epidemic. I believe it is environmentally caused. I am obsessive over the demand for scientific research of vaccinations.

Recently, a friend asked me to comment on her thread that questioned the integrity of vaccines. I knew it wouldn’t go well, but I complied anyway. I knew how brazen people can be on social media. There was a doctor who was appalled that I question the status quo. How dare I think for myself and not swallow every pill, hook, line, and sinker that the current medical climate prescribes?!

In this thread, I cited that there was a law passed in 1987 protecting pharmaceutical companies from liability for vaccine injury. I mentioned that ingredients in vaccines are shocking. I proposed that the current vaccine science is immutable and resistant to question, which ironically goes against ‘science’ as always questioning and researching. When a person accused me of absolutism because I suggested that maybe vaccinations are to be considered and said, “We really don’t know what causes autism,” I answered with, “You are right. Why? Because less than 1% the National Institute of Health’s funding goes to autism research.”

I was then called a name. It likened to a farm animal; not quite a horse, not quite a mule.

I was also compared to a certain model who has created a platform of advocacy for autism from her celebrity position. And though this woman is not a scientist, she is a mother. I once heard Dr. Peter Kreeft speak about Mary, the Mother of God, and he said, “Being a mother is the most powerful thing in the world.”

I answered, “Just because you’re a doctor doesn’t make you an authority on everything, and conversely, just because a woman is a model, doesn’t mean she is disqualified from having an educated opinion.”

I knew I was getting nowhere, in this exchange.
I felt slapped around. Bruised. Lambasted. Was it my ego?
Probably.
But I wondered if I were also tasting the bitter cup that Jesus spoke of.
I felt the humiliation, physically, too.
My shoulders ached.
My stomach felt like a stone.
My face flushed.
I was aware of each involuntary thud of my heart.

"How to grow a thicker skin (or not)" by Susan Anderson (CatholicMom.com)

Copyright 2018 Mark R. Anderson. All rights reserved.

I thought of the alligator’s skin. Reptilian, not human. Dark algae-green in lumpy coarse texture.
I wasn’t sure I wanted thicker skin. Because I’m human, I wondered if it were even possible.
Then I compared the gator’s rocky lines to Jesus’ skin, particularly during his Passion.
In public, Jesus was naked, beaten, bruised, spat upon, plucked, flayed, nailed, and hung.
I think of all the wounds He bore on his back to redeem every sin we’ve ever committed.
Not only was Jesus’ skin thin, it was torn open, exposed.
“Jesus, within your wounds, hide me.”

There is a song by John Mayer, called “Belief.”

Some of the lyrics go like this:

Is there anyone who ever remembers changing their mind from paint on a sign?
Is there anyone who really recalls ever breaking rank at all,
For something someone yelled real loud, one time?
Everyone believes,
In how they think it ought to be,
Everyone believes,
And they’re not going easily.
Belief is a beautiful armor,
But makes for the heaviest sword,
Like punching underwater
You can never hit who you’re trying for …

I also thought of St. Bernadette of Lourdes when she said, “My job is to inform, not to convince.”

As I limped away slowly from the internet altercation, I decided that the best thing to do from here was to take my lacerations to Jesus in the Eucharist.

And is my customary remedy; my wound care, I reread the Litany of Humility.

O Jesus! Meek and humble of heart, hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being Ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,
Deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I,
That others may be esteemed more than I,
That in the opinion of the world, others may
Increase, and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen, and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others become holier than I, provided that
I may become as holy as I should,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

I prayed for the doctor, one ‘Our Father.’
I forgave him, as I prayed the ‘Our Father’; “As we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Because I talk a lot, I figure that Jesus is doing his best at reminding me to listen, and not be compelled to defend myself, constantly. It is one way I must die to the flesh. I remember Sr. Faustina in her diary was gently told by her Jesus, not to defend herself.

Isaiah 53:7 flashes through my brain:

Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth.

Not that Jesus never explained, never taught, or turned over tables, but when it really came down to the crux of the matter … hmmm …the word “crux”? Is the meaning, the gist of “crux” derived from the word “crucifixion”? He spoke love through his Crucifixion.

Have I grown a thicker skin? Maybe I’m a bit wiser, but my skin looks the same. Actually … I notice more blue veins in my hands, less elasticity. If God wills, one day, I’ll have old-lady, papery, fragile skin.

I decide that Jesus never looked like an alligator.

He handles all my cares and concerns.

He’s got all his skin in the game to prove it.


Copyright 2018 Susan Anderson

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About Author

Susan Anderson is a wife and mother of six. Becoming Catholic at age 33, she is an avid fan of Mary and keeps her sanity through rosary prayer. She helps Rob, her husband, at Cactus Game Design, provider of Bible based games and toys. Her book, Paul’s Prayers, is about her oldest autistic son, which will be published March 6, 2018. To pre-order: http://goodbooks.com/titles/13642-9781680993479-pauls-prayers Her website: www.SusanAndersonwrites.com

5 Comments

  1. It’s hard when conversations turn abusive, but what might ease the pain is to look beyond that person and see those who aren’t abusive (especially hard when they are silent) because that’s who you are trying to inform. Yes, you may not be able to convince some people, but it might be wise to continue the conversation for the sake of others. Just as Christ wasn’t going to convince that generation of Jews, but has, is, and will save(d) billions of others because He kept on despite the abuse.

    Besides, arguments help bring about full disclosure and questioning what you say is part of the process. Unfortunately, it’s not always pleasant.

    • Thank you Rebecca. Just gather supporters, right?! I had another incident. It was more subtle, but I realized that the way God works humility in me, is never how I expect. It’s harder. Working out my salvation with fear and trembling. Ha, ha…to be continued…

  2. Maggie Eisenbarth on

    “I don’t like to be told what to think. Storytelling that is stimulating and challenging helps me make sense of my own reality.” – I agree
    I totally struggle with the feeling of being led to the slaughter; tragedies, divisions, and boundaries crossed often make the internal lioness in me roar, yet I often lack guts to speak up, or maybe it’s that I have the grace to lay silent… ?
    I love what you have to say here and a wonderful image, Jesus did not have thick skin…
    Peace, Maggie

  3. Thank you Maggie. Yes, we’re all sheep. But then, we’re lioness’ too. I can’t remember where I saw it, but here’s a line on silence, or saying the wrong thing: You won’t regret what you don’t say. But that’s not totally true is it? How many times have I thought, “I should have said this:…” But like Rebecca pointed out, think of the people touched, reached, and supportive. The tension either way isn’t fun.

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