Whether we use this term to describe a person or the hard shelled edible fruit or seed of a tree, a tough nut is hard to crack for many reasons. Sometimes I think of myself in these terms. I don’t know if others do, it doesn’t matter really, but I do know that mental toughness is a valuable skill to attain. As a runner, I’ve learned that mental toughness is absolutely essential when engaging in competitive long distance events. The ability to effectively manage bodily discomforts during a long distance run via the mind, can mean the difference between success or failure.
But long before I was a runner, I had endured enough hard-knocks which toughened me up in other areas of my character too. Of course, as a person who holds firmly to my faith as a Christ follower, I would sometimes feel guilty for the hard lines that characterized my inner self. But I rationalized this hardness of me, by perceiving it as my safety mechanism. Hardness protected me from those things, those people, those situations that had the potential to break me down.
And then today I continued my reading of a book by Anne Lamott, Small Victories, and what does she do but describe her beautiful friend who is dying from leukemia as “a pretty tough customer in her private life, though she had become visibly softer.” Ms. Lamott observed in her friend that it took cancer to ‘wedge a certain kind of person open, so that many new things can get in.’ Wham! Wow! Seriously? A certain kind of person? What kind of person? A tough nut kind of person? Um, yes…hello! So tough nuts get wedged open? by cancer? by hard things in life? Ouch! I don’t want to be that kind of person!
I next find myself ruminating on this idea while I’m running later in the morning. And of course, I’m thinking about tough nuts and how hard some of them are to crack open. Then I considered the destiny of the hard to open nut…it isn’t pretty…and I am sure you know what’s coming…the hammer, right? That’s right, a tough nut gets the hammer or it gets tossed into the waste bucket. And why I wondered do we treat hard, unopened nuts with such force and determination? Why, because unopened, nuts are not good for much of anything, except maybe the compost pile. A nut’s value is in its insides, its fruit or seed is it vitality; its life-giving energy; so first, the hard shell must be cracked open.
So yes, I am, from time to time, a tough nut to crack. But that’s only because I think ~ or rather, I perceive ~ that ‘hardness’ is akin to safety, to sanity, to longevity. But thankfully, today some cracks have been made anew on my tough outer shell; and through the cracks I continue to realize that hardness does not so much protect as it does to isolate. When I isolate my inner self, I shut out the illuminating life force of LOVE.
It takes LOVE to crack tough nuts like me, and you, open. It takes the LIGHT of LOVE to warm and guide us to safety outside our hard shells. But it is LOVE, and LOVE ONLY that will never fail to guide us so we may go forward to discover the treasures hidden for us in the hard things of life.