Recently, a chrysalis didn’t quite get the job done. It didn’t shed its final layer of caterpillar skin to abide in its chrysalis. Instead, it is dead as a combo chrysalis/caterpillar. It had me thinking of something much deeper that happens all to often.

Recently a woman died, someone who I looked up to for a short time in my life. I have no confirmation of the reasons of her death but given a few possible scenarios it gives great pause. One pause should be felt by any recovering addict, reminding them that the body can handle only so much poison. I’m told that at the beginning of 12-step meetings they usually take a moment of silence for those sick and suffering outside of their “walls” because they know the stark reality of addicts finding peace in recovery.  More often than not, addicts never find recovery and even those that do can relapse with fatal endings (Amy Winehouse and Chris Farley are both examples of people who kept trying to be “clean and sober” and died because of their addictions.).

Another pause reminded me of that dead butterfly. We must be careful who we surround ourselves with.

There are critics everywhere you look. Search hard enough and you’ll find them. Some of us don’t need to search beyond our four walls at home. The thing is, there will always be critics.  People will always have opinions. So, why in the world would we put critics in close vicinity to our hearts?  Why would we inflict pain upon ourselves?  What service is it doing us?  If we take their opinions to heart, whether they are true or not, we will suffer and die…  Maybe not literally but figuratively for certain.

I’ll give you an example:  There was a little boy who loved art. One day he came home from school and showed his mom his latest creation. She hung it on the refrigerator (of course).  The dad came home and saw the art on the fridge and said “take that off of the fridge.  We don’t want to encourage him to become a faggot artist.”  A little piece of that boy died that day. It wasn’t until he was 50 that he started to create again. HALF A CENTURY YEAR OLD, just then working past his art scar created by his father, the critic [this story was originally told in an interview with Brene Brown about one of her patients].

I believe my old friend died from a broken heart in the figurative sense and also in a literal sense.

Just last year I wrote about someone I knew who took her life. She, too, had a broken heart. Our hearts are precious, people. We need to ensure that we guard our hearts appropriately while still making them vulnerable to the safe people in our lives.

In the same way that we don’t make ourselves vulnerable to certain people, we absolutely shouldn’t then allow those same people’s opinions of us to penetrate our hearts.

I listened to a professor give a talk recently on mindfulness. In his “sales pitch” for mindfulness he mentioned that the reason that we sit here today is because our cavemen ancestors concerned themselves with the bad stuff. They were constantly worrying about how to stay warm and have enough food.  They would remember the last time something went wrong and remember not to do it that way again.

Because of our ancestors, our DNA is hardwired to focus on the negative. I see this in my eight year old. When I tell her that there will be a consequence for a wrong decision, she will cry worrying that she will make the wrong decision. She frets about the future more than I wish she did, but I’m afraid she comes by it a bit naturally between her father and I.  My little person is an example of how we are already hard-wired. Soon she will be coming home from middle school, focusing on a bad thing that transpired between her and a friend or how she got a bad grade or didn’t make the dance squad.

We ALREADY have it in us to focus on the negative.  We needn’t surround ourselves with people who focus on our negatives too.  People who truly love us won’t focus on them, neither to our faces nor behind our backs.  Yes, yes, sometimes iron needs to sharpen iron but that’s between trusted friends and confidantes and in situations where it goes both ways.  The verse isn’t “iron is sharpened by the rock” giving one person a high status over the other, but rather equals making each other better on our different paths.

Our heart is our thinking part of our brain.  If the information in our brain is faulty because it’s being put there by critical people, it badly influences our conscience.  Our conscience affects our spirit (soul)  (I really like how this blog explains how our heart and soul are different.).    Incorrect, critical information about ourselves affects decisions we make in life which affects how the Holy Spirit works in our lives and how we respond in faith.  For this serious reason, we must be careful who we trust with our hearts.  People who truly love us would not want to get in the way of what God wants for our lives.  So, be aware of the critical people in your life and learn to put them in the correct vicinity to your heart…  the vessel of the outpour of God’s love to others in your life.