I’ve been talking to a few friends lately about the art of staying tender—especially in the hard parts of life.⠀

We are wired to armor up and reduce our vulnerability when circumstances feel uncertain. It’s our built-in protection system.⠀

Do you know what I mean? In the middle of a hard conversation, you can feel your body get tense and your heart inching into a defensive-mode. You listen less, you calculate your response more. You cling to “who is wrong” and “who is right?” As the relational intensity builds, so do your walls and the boulders you lob over them.⠀

What would tenderness look like instead?⠀

What if we reminded ourselves that we are safe to remain open in this conversation or circumstance and stayed tender to the experience of everyone involved?⠀

What if we could lean in at the exact moment we want to check out? ⠀

This is the advanced work of the heart, I know. And, I’m not great at it. But every time I manage to pull off some element of tenderness in a difficult situation, I’m amazed at how it transforms the interaction.⠀

And it leaves me with a deep sense of, “Yes, this is who I want to be in this world.”⠀

When someone is venting and it sounds a lot like finger-pointing, what if we searched for the feeling in between their words instead of building our case and planning our retort? ⠀

When a child shouts, “I hate you!” What if the response was, “You’re really upset. How can I help?”⠀

What if it’s true that when our loved ones are at their worst, they need us the most? Not as life-coaches or litigators but as a tender place to land.⠀

It is not weakness, it is the ultimate measure of strength.⠀

It is endlessly difficult and yet incalculably worthwhile.