Every athlete knows you rip it apart before you can build it; that’s the nature of muscle. By stressing the muscles under progressively heavier weight, you break apart the muscle fibers under exertion. When you cease lifting the weight, resting muscles rearrange the broken fibers and reform into new configurations, making you stronger. With consistency and commitment, anyone can be an athlete; it’s a birthright.
This is the exact same process as building a soul. The “weight” in this process is the harsh words, the abandonments, the betrayals, the unrequited emotion of living; it’s the trauma caused by accidents, separations, and injustice. The tears in the soul muscles can be as thin as a hair or as wide as Ma Rainey’s bottom. Some you barely acknowledge, and others stop you dead.
The difference between muscle-making and soul-building is fear. A true athlete – that’s anyone consciously strengthening the body – will tell you to chase the pain, to get right on top of what hurts and go a little deeper. The body gives, the pain evaporates, and suddenly you are doing the thing you didn’t think you could do. Very few pursuits build that kind of confidence.
Emotional pain does not get that kind of publicity nor are the results as obvious as rippling pecs or a globular gluteus maximus. Emotional pain is the proverbial skunk at the picnic, and despite the bad rap, it will rip the fibers of staid, automatic pilot living and bring you back into the life force like a juiced up elite runner.
Remember when your first girlfriend told you she didn’t want a boyfriend in college? Rip! There went the first unresolved tear in soul that created a hesitation to meet women, enjoy their company, fall in love. Imagine having to negate 50% of the population because you once got a tear. Your husband feels distant and is floating further and further away. No matter what you do, you can’t get his attention with your clothes, your perfume, your ministrations. Your voice is getting louder and higher and then RIP!, you break apart because you’re exhausted. Why not ask the guy what’s going on? Just like that in an indoor voice with little inflection. Oh yes, you’re scared he might actually tell you. There’s the emotional pain fear thing, although in any of these situations, an athlete would have fallen back, taken in water, rested, recovered, and jumped back into action because that’s the way the body works and so does soul.
The well-toned soul says, if this is it, right here, so be it. Whatever comes. That girlfriend in college wanted to go wide when it came to men; that’s a natural desire in a young person and most people in general. And your emotionally unavailable husband has fallen in love with the UPS man. Could anyone have seen that coming? It doesn’t matter; it happened; pick up your bike and ride home. Once there, fall back. Sink down, let the fibers rearrange inside your being. Pull the pain like taffy, examining it from all sides. You will feel weak with sobs and rages but in the world of soul building, you are gaining strength.
Much as lactic acid floods the human body under stress, the poison of the hateful words and deeds will burn as well, and that pain is the indicator everything inside you is working. Now work those feelings out so you can rejoin life with the absolute knowledge that not only will you be loved again; you are loved right now. You just couldn’t hear it because you were trapped in the pain cycle without letting the muscles recover.
Decide. Do you want a beautifully operating body and soul? Put the work in. Don’t be afraid of pain. Learn to work it and create something new. As the lady said, “Everything in life that we really accept undergoes a change. So suffering must become Love. That is the mystery.” (Katherine Ann Mansfield, American writer)