The Pitfalls of Thin Skin

When I was a teenager, I did a lot of general home improvement and maintenance projects with my father. My dad is a no nonsense kind of guy. If he asked me to nail up a piece of drywall and it wasn’t done right, he would literally tear down the wall and make me do it again. If the lawn wasn’t completely free of leaves, I could look forward to an afternoon of raking. While these experiences were frustrating in the moment, they taught me valuable lessons. And not only do I not hold my father’s stern discipline against him, now that I am older, I thank him for it.

Thick Skin Comes from Difficulty (Real or Self-Imposed)

Nature gives endless examples of what happens to living things if they are never challenged. Take a human body and stop giving it exercise (challenge) and it will atrophy. Take a taxi driver and retire him, and his brain physically shrinks. Alternatively give a good amount of exercise (not too much, not too little) and you create a robust (and attractive) human body. Challenge the mind with learning city streets and you can physically grow the brain.

Life in the 21st century is a life of limitless ease. And that’s good! Never before have we had so much available to us with a minimum of effort. But interesting things start to happen as challenge leaves our lives. Our lack of physical exertion has created the proliferation of chronic disease. Our lack of deep, meaningful (and challenging) human interactions has made our minds weak as evidenced by growing mental illness and stress. Our intolerance to opposing viewpoints has made our egos fragile.

In a great irony, never challenging yourself leads to even greater challenges because you are weak. If you can lift 200 pounds, when you are presented with a 100 pound lift, you barely feel strain. But how did you become able to lift 200 pounds? You continually challenged yourself. Alternatively, if you are lazy and never challenge yourself, those 100 pounds will seem insurmountable (and may in fact be so). This metaphor extends into our relationships, dealings with money, and our spiritual lives as well.

Protecting Ourselves and our Loved Ones from Ease

I try not to name problem without a potential solution. If the problem is being weakened as a result of a cushy life, the solution is controlled difficulty. Obviously we don’t push ourselves so hard that we cause damage, but we push ourselves hard enough to gain adaptations.

  • To beat relational fragility, seek out and form human relationship with all types of people.
  • To beat physical fragility, exercise (weight lifting and cardio) consistently.
  • To beat financial fragility, practice frugality.
  • To beat mental fragility, seek out opposing viewpoints and challenge yourself with new (and perhaps even controversial) information.

I hope you found some valuable insights for how to beat the effects of fragility in your life. Thanks for reading!

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