I wish I’d known Shakespeare. Oh how I would’ve loved the opportunity to pick his brain over a cup of coffee..
Although his work is complex and intensely beautiful, his uncanny way of expressing feelings on paper is what naturally tugs at my conscience and soul. One of my favorite phrases in which he gets the credit is “wearing your heart on your sleeve.” In his noted play, Othello, the character lago says that showing his feelings would be like “wearing his heart on his sleeve, where birds could easily peck at it.” Ouch. Unfortunately, lago is not a trustworthy character. He is only pretending to show Othello his true emotions. Hmmm.
However, most try to believe they can usually trust a person who displays their heart so openly, as such individuals are typically showing their true feelings and react honestly in any given situation. I try to hang on to this premise as well, yet I’ve been fooled a time or two for sure. How about you?
History is also a good indicator of what this popular phrase means even today. Emperor Claudius II believed unattached men made better soldiers, so he declared marriage illegal. I have a feeling some may agree with good ol’ Claudius. As a concession, he encouraged temporary coupling. Once a year, during a Roman festival honoring Juno, men drew names to determine who would be their lady friend for the coming year. Once established, the man would wear her name on his sleeve for the rest of the festival. Around that same time, it’s speculated when a knight performed in a jousting match, he’d dedicate his performance to a woman of the court. By tying something of hers (like a handkerchief) around his arm, he’d let the court know the match would defend the honor of that woman. Ah, the romantic notions of a knight in shining armor... I’m still clinging to the hope that such chivalry is alive, much like another famous quote suggests.
Today we tend to use the “heart on their sleeve” quote a bit more casually. The phrase is so pervasive that singers like Ringo Starr, Eminem and Carrie Underwood, all use the well-known words in a range of musical genres.
Regardless of where or how it’s used, the phrase is identified with one key concept--vulnerability. That willingness to boldly put one’s feelings out there for anyone to see, appreciate or sadly, devour, seems to best describe the decision to be vulnerable.
While I have both male and female friends guilty of such placements of the heart, the vast majority of those who read my blog are women. However, this is a blog post in which men should also read. Perhaps it will help us all understand one another a bit more.
Why do so many choose to bear their raw and exposed heart? Rather than viewing life as a well-orchestrated chess match ( much like those who keep everything hidden) many throw caution to the wind, love with reckless abandon and are willing to accept both the negative (heartbreak, lies, false assumptions) and positive (passion, true love, and honesty) that accompany such behavior. To such vulnerable individuals, they’re happily willing to accept the odds.
Ah, but it’s natural that our human brains tend to hold on to memories of pain longer than that of pleasure. Sheesh! I can’t wait to talk to God about that! For the many who dared to make their emotions known to a special someone, only to have them overlooked, under appreciated or unreciprocated, their heart undergoes a serious type of surgery.
They conclude if such an opportunity ever presents itself again, their emotions will be buried so deeply or a wall built so high that they'd never feel the pain. Moreover, they're convinced that no sane person would dare try breaking into such a fortress. Heart on their sleeve? No way, no how. Never again.
But sweet friend, none of us escape this life unscathed. Sadly, some have heart scars so deeply carved that it’s affected practically every choice they’ve made in life. They prefer to hide their hearts behind layer after layer, insisting on the necessity of keeping others guessing, or at the very least, bewildered. Sadly, for the individuals on the receiving end of such hide-and-seek behavior, they finally decide to wave the white flag and walk in another direction. They surmise that it’s just too emotionally exhausting to open that Pandora’s box of pain and past problems. Again, we tell ourselves, “no way, no how.”
So, dear reader, what then? To which side of the coin do you most identify? Or perhaps you can relate to both?
One of my favorite artists today is Tyler Childers, a Kentucky native who is known for his country music sound, infused with a bit of bluegrass and folk. I recently heard the song Rock, Salt and Nails, just as I sat down to write this post. The famous ballad has been covered by a number of artists, such as Joan Baez, Waylon Jennings and Bob Dylan. But the version by Tyler Childers is a worthy interpretation that stands with the best. Check it out here, or below are a few of the lyrics.
In the chilly cold marshes.
And if the women were squirrels
With them high bushy tails,
Well I'd load up my shotgun
With rock salt and nails…
Wow. There’s a lot of fury in those words. Needless to say, it’s coming from a place of deep pain and anger
Of course, women also sing a similar tune. Perhaps you’ve heard Torn by Natalie Imbruglia? Here’s a few of those lyrics.
I thought I saw a man brought to life
He was warm, he came around like he was dignified
He showed me what it was to cry.
Well you couldn't be that man I adored
You don't seem to know, don't seem to care
What your heart is for
No, I don't know him anymore…
Alas, heartache is no fun for anyone except the record companies or perhaps the ice cream manufactures who provide us bowls of yummy goodness over which to feel sorry for ourselves and lament. No, such big big emotions are not for the faint of heart.
Every person who reads this post has had different life experiences. You have baggage and scars with which no one else can 100% identify. Therefore, before you question another person’s actions in matters of the heart, you might want to remind yourself of that fact.
But you always have a choice when it comes to your heart and how you display it. We all do. We can love half-hearted or wholly. Reserved or wreckless. Passionate or passive-aggressive. It’s up to you. But before you choose, you might want to ponder the consequences…
For my readers who’ve decided to be vulnerable and willing to take chances with your heart, I hope you can feel my warm, congratulatory hug. You’re the bravest of all brave. You are willing to wear your heart on your sleeve proudly. Bravo to you. You live boldly, purely and deeply.
For those who can’t quite go there yet, know it's perfectly okay, too. But I sure hope you get there someday. Exposing one's heart, regardless of the outcome, is the greatest experience in which God provides. Read Song of Songs (Song of Solomon) in the Bible and you’ll understand. It’s incredibly beautiful and sensuous.
When I created the Gracious Heart and Humble Heart pendants for my jewelry line, I knew I was taking a risk. Some women choose not to wear heart jewelry, for they feel it makes them look too vulnerable or mushy. But honestly, that’s the very reason I created them.
It’s time we CELEBRATE our hearts and live fully. We must be our authentic self and love who we are. Sure, our heart may have been broken, just like the wood in my jewelry, but I promise it will heal back beautifully. Trust me. I’ve been there. There’s also a new pendant called The Secret Garden in which I think you'll love and can relate. Check them out here.
Regardless if your heart is hidden under layers of pain or smothered by thorns and weeds, here’s hoping you find the bravest of gardeners who knows the beauty that lies beneath.
He knows you're totally worth it.