Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart.
Could this be the synthesis of what we have been talking about for our children (and for us) all this time? Strong Back – Soft Fronts – Wild Hearts.
I read these words this week and let them just sit with me. What if all of our children are raised to discover what this means to them - as Prep School students, as teenagers, as adults and as citizens of our world?
A 10-year-old facing a challenge says to him/herself “Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart” and then acts accordingly as they have thought and discussed what these words mean to them.
A teenager lost in a moment of social media fueled angst considers to her/himself. “Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart” before posting something online.
And into adulthood when challenged by perfection, pleasing, providing and pretending, we step back and consider what our actions and words are if we have a Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild heart.
This is not new, these words and their combination have been around for some time. Joan Halifax (teacher, priest, author), Jen Hatmaker (writer and pastor) and Brene Brown have been saying versions of “Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart.” for ages.
We are all born with a Wild Heart.
Young children know (and unfortunately society seems to take this out of them) that having a Wild Heart is truly “living out the paradox in our lives. It’s the ability to be tough and tender, excited and scared, brave and afraid – all in the same moment. It’s showing up in our vulnerability and our courage, being fierce and kind.”(Brene Brown page 155 - Braving The Wilderness). Simply put, children with their wild hearts understand that vulnerability is courage and that through being wonderfully, authentically themselves they live with and within that Wild Heart. And then (sadly) they are taught by society to armour up. To hide their wild heart and to ‘fit in’.
This is when they need the lessons of the Strong Back. Strengthening our back means not being driven by what other people think. The challenges and opportunities here are to let go of being ‘liked’ and the fear of disappointing people. They/we step up, are accountable and take responsibility. We teach them to stay away from gossip, and a posse mentality, as it shows a weakness in character. We teach them to choose courage – not to do things alone, but to ask for and give help. Simply, we challenge and encourage them to have a Strong Back by being themselves – always.
And that is when a Soft Front becomes so important. A natural (or conditional) instinct is too often to get defensive or armour up when challenged by others, when we don’t ‘fit in’ or when it is easier to join the crowd rather than stand alone. But living with the armour on, defensive and scared, is no way to live. A Soft Front is the place and the grounding essence of joy, trust, love, courage, friendship and connection. Basically, everything that gives us deep, true meaning in our life. The teaching of a Soft Front is that we can actually show up, be seen and be vulnerable even when we can’t control the outcome. This is seriously powerful.
As a Prep School we want to lead and innovate with our Wild Heart. We want and do stand together with a Strong Back and interact every day and in every way with a Soft Front.
Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart – maybe these are the tools we can give our children and each other to live a life of joy, belonging, love and connection.
And, as with all things that sound simple, this is not. Truly living Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart will be incredibly challenging and difficult. At times, we all want to armour up, point the finger at others and blame everyone else. It is at those times when I believe we need to (yet again) seek the wisdom of our youngest students, because if you want to see Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart in action everyday watch a 4 or 5 year old.
In order for our children (and us) to have our Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart we do not have to change who we are, it only requires us to be who we are meant to be.
HEAD OF PREPARATORY SCHOOL
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