In life, we inevitably get hurt. Maybe the hurts are big, or maybe they’re small. But anything from a small social slight to violence inflicted upon us hurts. And so naturally, as much as we can, we’ll try to protect ourselves. Put on some armor so we can’t get hurt that way again.
And armor can do us a great deal of good. In the worst possible situations, there really is no better course for you to follow than armoring up. It’s the obvious way to cope. And even where you have a better ability to cope — where you’re not in mortal danger but at risk of a bruised ego — you’ll still probably get meaningful benefit from some armor.
So this kind of psychological armor is hugely beneficial in the short term. It keeps us safe, it protects us, and may by extension protect others. If your way of dealing with your anger at someone used to be physical violence, an armoring device where you instead just shut down or flee is an unquestionable improvement.
But armor blocks intimacy. And makes it hard for us to reach our full potential as self-aware, useful, complete, and kind human beings. When you head out to the world in a suit of chainmail, the closest you’ll ever get to those you’re helping is “not very.”
For a long time, my armor was a steadfast silence. For fear of being judged, or gossiped about, or seen as weak or dumb, I’d just not say anything. Ever. To anyone. About anything.
I’m exaggerating a bit, but I rarely divulged more than the bare minimum about me to anyone. So people who tried found me quite frustrating to talk to. But it worked, in a matter of seeing it. That coping strategy did protect me from some gossip that might have happened. But it also blocked a lot of relationships in my life from ever reaching past the most superficial level. Or existing at all.
Armor’s a useful thing. But it’s also isolating. The knight inside all his layers of metal is rather safe, but he’s not going to be known, loved, or more than superficially cared for by anyone that way. So when you can, you must learn to drop the armor. Or to let it aside, even just a little, so that so that a deeper relationship becomes possible. It’s not easy, but it’s the way you grow.
Armor keeps you safe, but it also keeps you small. Just as those plates and chainmail keep the world out, they keep you from growing in size and strength. They keep you constrained, and afraid. They’ve got a time and place, but they lock you off from the real depth of life and relationships. So as much as you can, when you can, let them go.