What Does Wearing One’s Heart on Their Sleeve Mean?
Many think it means you cry easily and have a soft heart. Some would equate it to having a ‘bleeding heart’. A universally excepted definition would be to show your emotions easily, not hiding them. Most that wear their heart’s on their sleeves are accused of being overly or too sensitive.
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The phrase originated with Shakespeare’s Othello;
Iago:Othello Act 1, scene 1, 56–65
For when my outward action doth demonstrate
The native act and figure of my heart
In complement extern, ’tis not long after
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
For daws to peck at. I am not what I am.
Daws refers to a type of bird. Quite meaningful today even, isn’t it? The birds that may peck at your feelings and sensitivities will come in all varieties. Indeed, you will be pecked at for being real and authentic by a wide variety of folks that are uncomfortable with your intuition and understandings. The things you notice and are affected by, and indeed think are important will be shot down.
The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms YouThe Highly Sensitive: How to Stop Emotional Overload, Relieve Anxiety, and Eliminate Negative EnergyThe Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron Ph.D. (1997) Paperback
Is Wearing Your Heart on Your Sleeve Bad?
Frankly, that seems a bit like saying, “Is being you bad?” No! Being sensitive or overly sensitive as many will accuse you of is neutral. Is having a well-developed olfactory system bad? How about keen eyesight? Extraordinary hearing capabilities?
Too Sensitive? Fire in your soul? A mouth that speaks the truth?
Can’t even fake a hello? So real you scare people away? No idea how to pretend your way through life? Tired of trying and ready to just be you and let the consequences fall where they may? I’m with you all the way! Wearing your heart on your sleeve can be confusing and exhausting!
Were you born with a heart tattooed on your shoulder? Have you lost track of how many people have accused you of overthinking, being too sensitive or caring too much? And where the heck did the ‘truth’ that overthinking is a thing or being sensitive can go too far come from?
While the world may label us ‘too sensitive’ it is also dependent on us ‘overly sensitive’ ilk for much of the beauty and truth in the world. We are guilty of both starting wars and ending them.
Who Invented Being “too sensitive” or “overthinking”?
Have you ever been shocked by how little intuition others seem to have? Confused why you are alone in your observations that seem so obvious?
Your brain is not broken, your thought process is not wrong. You were made just how your Creator wants you to be! Perhaps you too have come to realize you are in the minority, and the rest of the world is not capable of understanding what you see, understand and feel.
Standing Out Like a Light in the Darkness
or More Like a Sore Thumb?
Sigh. Yes, you have your times of victory when you walk so close with Jesus that it does not matter how the world responds. You know you have walked in grace and love and righteousness.
And then there are those other times…
“Being too open can lead to one feeling insecure and vulnerable which can lead to counterproductive behaviour in order to try ‘undo’ the damage of expressing oneself.”Mandy Kloppers, MentalHealth.net
The times when your mouth went first before the rest of you. The clear truth pounds so loud in your ears you can’t grasp why everyone is acting like they can’t hear it. So you tell them. And maybe you don’t exude love when you speak, but instead exasperation.
Sure you repent, but then, would you rather just stay quiet than risk messing up again? Me too. Been there, felt that. However, there is growth to be had from every mistake. Maturing to accomplish until the day we die.
Take breaks when you need them. As a result of your standing back for a while, hopefully, you have used this time to pray and beseech God to refine you. Now you are ready once again, to play the role He created you to fulfill.
What is the role of the ones wearing their hearts on their sleeves?
You may be called to be a commentator, an artist, a musician. A writer or teacher. There are so many wonderful ways the highly sensitive can hone in on their strengths and use them for the greater good.
An often unrecognized gift of the ‘too sensitive’ is that of peacemaker. You may laugh and think, ‘umm, no, I cause more upset than peace.’ And that may be true; however, consider this; pure, genuine, authentic, intentional peace requires transparency. Further, most people without your same gifting have a difficult time seeing what the real issues are. Or how to confront them. Indeed, peacemakers are highly sensitive, heart on the sleeve folks that desire an authenticity; a belief few can attain.
“This wearing of the heart openly is generally not a choice, it simply is the result of the intensity of the inner experience.”Roie Lattimar, Greater Than We
Gentle, loving, Biblical confrontations can lead to deeper relationships and enable the body of the Messiah to be one.
Don’t listen to the enemy tell you being overly sensitive is bad.
Similarly, there will be times when you feel like that bruised and battered thumb, but you are confident you were in His will. The ambiguity of these moments provide the times He grows our resilience. The paths He asks us to walk as we learn to only be concerned with His praise and acceptance.
It can be a grueling process, can’t it? Finding deep peace when the world chooses to call us crazy or evil. When we are unaccepted and cast out. When only the love of Yeshua (Jesus) sees us through.
Consequently, it is through His love and care when we are rejected that He blesses us. And while we may feel alone, it is usually true that He sends someone to encourage us, to undergird us, to hold our hand. Don’t discount that one. One is enough if that one is from Him!
The Mountain Top Provides Joy for the ‘Too Sensitive’
God is so good, isn’t He? We may live 80% of our lives being cast aside as too forthright, overly sensitive, hearts on our sleeve whiners – but then He uses us for the other 20%! And those mountain top experiences are worth every misunderstanding and miscommunication we have encountered.
“Others cringe at the idea of exposing themselves, putting their heart on the line in fear it will be broken to pieces. Well, I am one of the few strange ones that actually like living life on the edge. And what I mean by that is I love living for God! If that requires me to shed some tears, experience some heartaches, jump through hoops, I’ll do it!”Short Daily Devotions, Olivia Cooper
When you have deep peace from living in the center of our Heavenly Father’s will, even the valleys are good. Hard, but good. Subsequently, the shalom He provides when we see our uniqueness used by Him is impassable.
Live as He created you, allowing Him to refine and mold you. Do not deny the deeply vulnerable areas in your heart. They are there for a reason, His reason.
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.Matthew 23:27-28
Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity
Be real, be authentic. Keep your heart on your sleeve.
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