Several years ago, I watched ‘The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger” video. As entertaining as that video was, it was also the first time I had really seen a Honey Badger in action. King Cobras, bees, jackals.. The Honey Badger did not give a shit.
Last week, I found out that the skin of a Honey Badger was so durable, that it could withstand a machete, arrows, and spears. I suppose there can be some real value in having thick skin. And off my mind went…
I read a book a couple years ago which discussed the concept of not taking anything personally. The idea is that whatever someone was saying about you or to you, was a reflection of how they were experiencing their reality, more than it was a reflection of you. If a random stranger yelled a racial slur at you, there’s a good chance that outburst had more to do with them than it did with you. Even if that random stranger said something flattering, the premise is the same. The goal is to understand why something is being said, rather than to take what is being said at face value.
I think there’s a lot of wisdom in this approach. There are times where someone paid me a compliment that I really enjoyed hearing, and instead of understanding why they had paid me a compliment, I accepted it as a true statement. Later, I would discover that I had been misled, not because the other person was malicious in their intentions, but because I misunderstood their perspective or what they were trying to communicate. If your priority is to have an accurate understanding of the world, you need to be mindful of the prejudice and bias of how others see the world – even when it’s in your favor.
While I appreciate how this approach has helped keep my ego in check, it’s arguably most effective as a defensive measure. While I’m not perfect, I do my best to walk through life without fear, anger, or hate. And I’m getting pretty darn good at it. How? I walk through life with the confidence of a Honey Badger.
I wasn’t born with thick skin. These callouses were earned. A lot of it was scar tissue.
I entered into adulthood understanding that sensitivity was not always a strength. Being sensitive worked against me more often that it worked in my favor because a high degree of sensitivity would bypass my ability to think about things rationally – and I would just react. More often than not, these reactions were extremely counter-productive. I had to learn to handle things differently.
In my 20s, I learned the value of rational thought. Emotions and sensitivity became something to control, not something which I would let control me. Someone could call me the meanest thing they could come up with, and I’d be more likely to end up at a point of compassion than of anger. I would also have more confidence in my ability to turn that person into a friend than an enemy. And even if I couldn’t make any progress with that individual, I could move on from the situation knowing that I handled the situation the best I could and that I may have created an opening for someone else down the road. There was something enlightened about this approach, and yet it left me feeling invincible.
I now walk through life with the confidence of a Honey Badger, knowing that there’s very little that others can do to hurt me. And it’s changed the way I see the world. Without fear, there is no hate. Without hate, there is no anger. Without fear, hate, or anger, Love is a much more natural state of mind. Walking through life, ready to love… I can’t help but think this is a far more productive approach than walking through life ready to fear.
Now in my 30s, I’m trying to incorporate a more balanced approach, inclusive of sensitivity and emotions. These days, I understand sensitivity to be like a dial on an instrument which collects data. If you turn the dial to zero, then you’ll collect no new information and you might as well not have the instrument at all. If you turn the dial on the instrument to 100, you better have the ability to process all that information accurately. I suspect that most people have a hard time adjusting that dial themselves. I’ve seen a lot of men out there who have set that dial as low as possible and go through life too insensitive to notice the emotional nuances of those around them. I’ve also seen a lot of women out there who have their dial set rather high, and go through life overly sensitive to the actions and words of those around them. I doubt either is healthy.
A thick skin doesn’t make you insensitive to the world around you. A thick skin is the difference between someone wanting to hurt you and someone being able to hurt you. And when you realize that this dynamic exists entirely in your head, as an understanding of how the world works, it really does stand out to me as something special. Imagine a world, full of people who are never offended, never angry, never fearful. That world often exists inside my head… but then I venture out into the real world and I’m reminded of how much fear, hate, and despair exists in the world.
I’m not entirely sure how to navigate what comes next… But I do know how I’ll carry myself in the process.