Do you know what the largest organ in your body is?
Would you believe it covers almost 20 square feet on the average person?
It’s one of those organs that perhaps we don’t give enough credit. The heart gets a lot of love. And the brain gets its rightful accolades. But the skin… well, let’s give it some of its fair shake.
It’s good we have skin in the game! It
- covers and protects everything inside our body. Can you imagine the havoc it would wreak on our other organs if it didn’t serve this important protective function? All kinds of grime and gunk would cripple our other vital organs. Skin protects from the viruses and bacteria to which we are exposed every day. It also protects from sun exposure.
- holds everything together. It keeps our bones and muscles and organs from hanging out all over the place.
- allows us to sense touch. It is allows us to feel loving touch, hurtful touch and pain, fun touch… and play tag! : )
- regulates body temperature. It helps control hot and cold to enable our organs to function at their best.
- kicks the bad out. Our skin has an impressive 7 million pores through which is expels impurities and enable perspiration.
Skin serves as a protective barrier between our insides and the rest of the world, and it acts as a filter.
And not just physically. Not just medically.
Skin is also an important protective barrier relationally. It is an important filter in interactions with others.
A person’s skin is their boundary: it is their protective barrier between their insides and the rest of the world. It is where they begin.
Let’s say someone makes a comment that is ‘only skin deep.’ So the comment would be simply about what is observable about another’s ‘skin’ – their physical actions. For example, if a small group member arrives late to their 7:00 small group, the leader may start an inquiry with an ‘only skin deep,’ observable action:
“I noticed you arrived at 7:30.”
We’ve talked before about the importance of communicating about actual, factual actions. Things that are skin-level observable. Taking things at face value. Commenting on things that are observable isn’t invasive because it does not go beyond skin deep.
But what if the leader took a different approach? What if the leader presumes an interpretation of the member’s action?
“You clearly aren’t committed to the group.”
This goes beyond skin deep. It delves into the persons heart and head, presuming to know their thoughts and motives.
Maybe the member isn’t committed. But maybe they stopped to get a snack for the group, and while in line, they shared with another person in line about their amazing small group, which led into a conversation where they got to share about Christ. Maybe the assumption about motive is completely off. Maybe the interpretation of the observation is inaccurate, untrue, ignoble, and sinful. Maybe it is actually the leader who is sinning by thinking things that are not true about the member.
Comments like this feel so hurtful because they go beyond skin deep. When the leader comments about motives, such as presuming that the person isn’t committed to small group, they are presuming to know what is going on in the heart and mind of the member. They are presuming to know the member’s motives and thoughts. They go beyond the member’s boundary – their skin. They penetrate beyond the boundary of the person. They are a boundary-buster, and such boundary-busting causes unnecessary hurt and destruction in relationships.
This is why verbal abuse is so hurtful. Someone presumes to know the precious things inside of you and negatively characterizes them. They penetrate beyond the boundary of your skin. It is not acceptable for someone to invade you in such a way; it is violating. And that feeling is intensified when you are penetrated by someone you trust, someone in authority over you, or someone who should be protecting you.
You begin at your skin. When someone tries to invade your protective barrier, you mustn’t let them! It may feel rude to interrupt their sharing of their ‘perceptions’ of you, but interrupting is not a sin. Verbal abuse is. Saying things that are untrue about you is sinful.
You have every right to stop their penetration of you… and I would argue, every duty. The Lord commands you to think on things that are true and noble, and if someone is trying to fill your thoughts with untrue, ignoble things about you, stop it. Simply interrupt.
Do not let those ‘perceptions’ get under your skin! Keep that bacteria and grime out of you. One tiny little bacteria getting inside of you can wreck havoc on your system ~ not only mentally, but psychologically, spiritually, and physically.
So keep those tiny little bacteria out! If a comment starts to feel like its presuming things about your thoughts and motives – that it’s getting under your skin, interrupt. Because ‘only skin deep’ is a beautiful thing.