In metallurgy there is a process called tempering. This is when steel and various alloys are subjected to exposure of certain temperatures for certain lengths of time in order to make them stronger.
In cooking, there is also the concept of tempering, used mostly when speaking of eggs. You cannot just pour beaten eggs into hot milk for a custard; the eggs would cook instantly. The idea is to bring the temperature of the eggs up by mixing just a little of the hot mixture in with the eggs, bit by bit, until the eggs can stand the full heat of the mixture and still not be cooked.
In life, we are subject to hardening, or tempering, when we go through adversity. We do say, “What does not kill us only makes us stronger.” We say that and it’s a nice platitude, but what doesn’t kill us can almost certain kill us or hurt a heck of a lot. We’re not limiting this to physical pain either. Emotional pain can hurt worse than just about anything a person could imagine. In fact, some people might just go ahead and tell you to cut off their arm if it would stem the emotional pain they were feeling during any one event. That arm is only going to hurt for a little while, but that emotional pain is going to hurt for a long time, and possibly rear its ugly head at a later date.
I have recently gone through a very tough time emotionally, still am going through it to be honest. It’s tough. I want nothing more than to curl into a ball and cry, but I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to cry. Why should I let this thing make me cry? I’ve been through similar situations before and maybe I cried then, but did the crying help me any? It didn’t help me resolve my situation and it didn’t help the hurt get over any faster. So, no, there will not be crying.
I’ve been reflecting on it, and if something like this had happened to me several years ago, I would have cried. I would have been curled into a ball and crying. In fact, something like this did happen to me, just last year; I cried.
I see this as a point where I’ve been hardened by my adversities, but is it a good thing? How hard do we have to get as people? Isn’t there a point where we get so hard emotionally that we can’t be emotional? Do we all become like the logical Spock, respecting logic over feeling?
I honestly don’t want to be a completely logical creature without feeling. I still want to have feeling. If I can’t have feeling, what is life worth? I want to experience the hardening process of life, but I don’t want it to make me too hard, too bitter, too tempered.
While it is true that a tempered substance has more strength, is it all good? Are there any downsides to being tempered?
I don’t know what I’m losing by being hardened in life. Maybe I’m only losing inexperience or naivety or, maybe, I’m losing a part of myself. I can’t really be sure. Am I going to be able to trust people in the same manner? Should I trust people in the same manner? Does becoming wise in the ways of life and hardened to the things life can throw at you, take away something you had before?
I think each time we have an incident in our lives that hardens us, we are changed. We can never be that person we were before the hardening event. Yes, we can try to preserve part of what we were, but we’re never exactly going to get back to that person. That person is gone. Hopefully, the person left behind by all the hardening and tempering is someone better.
Hopefully, we’ll be a bit hard on the outside, but still plenty soft on the inside.