The term bleeding heart is a derogatory label generally used in a political way and meant to describe liberals who back government programs designed to help the poor. Even though it’s rather out of fashion now, it’s still a slam against all those who are excessively sympathetic to the plight of others.
Because you know, God forbid someone should be excessively sympathetic.
But I digress.
As a young woman, I read a book called The Bleeding Heart by Marilyn French. It was my first real foray into feminism on a much deeper level than just equal pay for equal work. French’s main character described herself as a bleeding heart, not because of her liberal political convictions, but because her heart broke over the pain of others, women mostly, and their stories. I connected to that condition because I’ve had the same experiences.
That doesn’t make me an emotional person. I’m not really. My husband is far more emotional than I am in many ways. I rarely cry on the outside. My husband on the other hand, gets emotional over commercials, movies, TV shows, you name it. Sentimental he is. Sentimental, I’m not.
My tears are on the inside. I have so much empathy for the weaknesses and pain of other people that my heart feels as if it needs a tourniquet to stop the flow of blood. It bleeds for the people I know as well as those I don’t. I hurt when my children hurt others just as much as when they are hurt. I hurt when people I love hold grudges. I hurt when friendships end.
My heart bleeds over the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. And there is so very much that is ugly. My heart bleeds for the mothers in Africa who are fearful their daughters will be raped or stolen. It bleeds thinking about the women in Syria raising their children in the darkness, praying bombs don’t fall on their home. My heart hemorrhages when I hear of yet another atrocity in the bumbling male darkness that has taken root in conservative religions that condone the throwing of acid in your daughter’s face if she’s been raped, shoot a young girl on her way to get an education or give your woman a good wake up smack because she wasn’t submissive enough. It bleeds over the horror of sex trafficking has taken hold in our own backyard and for the number of young men who won’t be growing up on the streets of Chicago. I hurt when I read articles of our youth doing horrible things and wonder at the pain and shame their mothers must feel. I hurt when I hear mothers and fathers say the kind of hurtful things to their children and teens that leave a permanent imprint on their hearts.
The blood I let and the tears I cry are part empathy, part rage and part shame. I feel for the pain of others, rage over the injustice of life and burn with shame that humans can hurt one another so callously.
I’m PROUD to be a bleeding heart!
And I’m not alone. There are many others out there whose bleeding hearts motivate them to do something positive in the world. So I’m going to do something completely new on the blog… I am going to start a regular feature on the blog called the Bleeding Heart about people whose compassion moves them to do something that will change the high level of worldwide suck (To borrow a John Greenism). I plan on starting sometime next month, so look for it!