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  • Writer's pictureTracey Lee

S and T

Sorrow and Tenderness

I think the first is one we try to avoid and the second we fail to practise enough.

What is sorrow? Is it embodied in the act of saying sorry? Is it merely sadness or grief? A recognition of something we have done wrong, a hurt inflicted or a guilt felt. Or is all of this?

We feel sorrow deeply, somewhere in the core of our being. It manifests deep within the heart and messes with our sense of rightness and stability. It hurts us. It causes a pain that can only be remedied by time. It cannot be separated from sadness and loss. It is an emotion that we would outrun if we could and yet it is one of the emotional experiences that I believe helps us grow into people who have a greater understanding of the world.

I am not advocating for suffering and despair but unless you are the luckiest human on the planet you will find yourself in a moment of sorrow at some point. Losing someone you love is perhaps the most relevant example. Grief comes with the stages of disbelief and depth of sadness at the loss but sorrow comes when we realise the magnitude of the life we must live without that person.

Sorrow is a darkness where light does not seem to penetrate or if it does it hurts so much we have to close our eyes against its brightness. Sorrow is omnipresent in this gloom and our days are cluttered with its effects. We understand burden when we experience sorrow. But it has its benefits.

From sorrow and suffering we learn that we can survive pain, we can be healed and we can find hope. From my own sorrows I believe I eventually found a greater peace, a quietness in which I learned to appreciate the simpler things. Once the woundedness passed I felt a stronger connection to life. We make the days count when we realise how few of them we get. I think we seek things that are not so transient and things that have a purpose when we have walked with sorrow.

I don’t think happiness is the antonym of sorrow. I think it might be wisdom. It could be hope or even serenity.

Tears water our growth. William Shakespeare

Tenderness. It’s used to describe a source of pain and can be used to describe the chewability of a steak but it gets some bad press in the human emotion field. It can be associated with being too soft, weak and a bit of a push-over. But all the great poets, philosophers and writers tell another story. They see tenderness as a strength. And the mess the world is in at the moment I suggest a little tenderness might be the solution we need.

Tenderness is simply a feeling of concern for someone or something else. It is about warmth of affection. In Tibetan Buddhism tsewa (a warm energy from an open heart) is an essential quality of enlightenment. Tenderness builds a concern for others particularly if they are defenceless, or at risk of great harm.

We probably know what tenderness is but we don’t necessarily put it into practice as often as we should. I think our current fascination with rage, the media ‘slamming’ people, the politics of distain, insult and discourtesy, the desire to have a ‘gotcha’ moment all contribute to a climate of disquiet. It makes me ask where all the tender hearts have gone. And why, when we are tender, we can only manifest it for a short period of time until the next moment of fury comes along.

We need to seek a way forward that is built on tenderness. We should hold the hearts and lives of others as we might a new-born. We should understand the fragility of the life and our power to make it better or worse. It is the disregard for the human heart that creates waves of disharmony and allows hatred to fester.

You can start by being more tender to yourself, your environment and the people around you. Practise it as an artform, or martial art or self-defence. Practise it if your life depends on it. Because it may.

The prudence of the best heads is often defeated by the tenderness of the best hearts. Henry Fielding

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