Thursday, 15 October 2009


Pachyderms -rhinos, elephants
...splendid thick-skinned animals!

With their tough hides these massive creatures are shielded against the intense heat of the equatorial sun, hardened against the sharp-edged undergrowth through which they trample, resistant to the onslaught of many a foe ...magnificent in the way they are so well equipped to face the rough and tumble of life.

HOWEVER, not one of us would want to be known as emotional pachyderms -thick skinned, lumbering, insensitive, inhuman hulks, unruffled by the trauma of our own lives and those of other people.

Imagine, then, how thrilled I was when some time ago The Grenada Media Workers Association invited me to take part in a panel discussion, with the delicious subject being,

"Developing A thick Skin While Retaining Our Sensitivity."

Becoming thick-skinned, capable of dampening down the stress of personal anguish and the impact of the tragedies of others. And yet, in striving for this, remain sensitive-responsive to the heart-breaks, insecurities, fears, and even shame of others.

Media Practitioners have to cover some awful events. For their emotional survival they need something of the thick skin of the elephant if they are not to be traumatised. The same professional detachment is required of those working in the casualty ward of a hospital, or even of us priests who have to be there, supportive of those in distress. All of us must become sufficiently self-possessed so as not to swamp others with our shock and sorrow at what we see before us. Therefore, we must develop a thick skin. This surely applies to all of us at some time or other in our lives.

A closer look at the pachyderms reveals that their skins are porous. Through their skins they perspire -they get rid of the heat within their bodies. They are cooled, through and through, as they wallow in the refreshing water-holes. So they are by no means insensitive, closed to the outside world. And, you know, a pachyderm's thick skin protects its soft heart. It wouldn't function if it had a heart of hard stone.

In a sense, we are thin-skinned -emotionally -and thank God for that! We are porous and so are open to absorbing the pain of others...something like a sponge. Somehow or other we must find, acquire, develop a fine-tuned, well-balanced emotional life -at one and the same time being like leathery pachyderms, while retaining the tender sensitivity that flows from our humanity ...people familiar with tragedy but not hardened by it.

I think of Jesus weeping at the tomb of Lazarus, shedding tears over his beloved Jerusalem. We can only guess at the extent he was emotionally drained as he ministered to the sick, the bereaved, those who had lost confidence in themselves because of their personal shame. And in Gethsemane didn't he combine great human sensitivity, as he sweated blood at the very thought of his approaching agony, together with a pachyderm-tough will as he accepted the cup of suffering from his Father?

Jesus and his followers -a herd of sensitive pachyderms
...with a difference...meeting God...mywaygodsway.

Peter O.P.

Next week Isidore will meet God in Glorious Uncertainties

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