It's summer--time for bare feet in the grass, on the sand, and soaking in the water. But you don't want bare feet on gravel, hot pavement, or (for Die Hard fans) on broken glass. Barefooting is great in certain situations, but not in others--because even folks with calloused feet hurt themselves from time to time.
A tenderfoot is a person with unusually soft soles on their feet. The term is also used to refer to a person who is new to a job or an organization. It used to refer to people who were new to living on the frontier--city slickers who were used to wearing shoes all the time. They would be called "tenderfoot" until they had literally developed callouses on their feet, or until they had become figuratively calloused to frontier life.
Today, I think a lot of people are tenderfooted when it comes to conversational skills. It seems these days it's difficult to discuss things we hold dear, without being offended or hurting other people's feelings. Recently, somebody commented to me about how we're taught not to discuss religion or politics--but what we really need to be taught is how to have a civil conversation. We need to learn how to be sensitive to the feelings of others--and how not to have fragile feelings ourselves.
As we walk this earth, it's easy to get our feet cut by the sharp comments of others. One solution would be to cover the whole earth in bubble wrap--but that could be suffocating, couldn't it? Shantideva, the eighteenth century Indian scholar, said maybe you could cover the world with leather so that you could walk more safely. But...
"Where would there be leather enough to cover the entire world? With just the leather of my sandals, it is as if the whole world were covered. Likewise, I am unable to restrain external phenomena, but I shall restrain my own mind. What need is there to restrain anything else?"
I can't cover the world--but I can cover my feet. This means that while it's impossible to make the world a softer place, it is possible to protect my heart and mind. What's the leather I can use to cover my tender feet? It's called LOVE. By putting on love, I can keep my tender heart safe, and protect others as well. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT) says:
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
Love is a power that heals the cuts and bruises made by others. It also guards your tender feet and heart so that you won't be so easily offended by people--because you'll be walking with them in Jesus' sandals instead of your own shoes. No, you can't cover the world in leather so it won't cut you. But when you cover yourself in love, God will give you angels to help you, "lest you dash your foot against a ston[y hearted person]." This means you realize that you can't change the world, but you can change yourself. You can't cover the world, but you can cover your heart and mind with love. And by doing so, you'll be able to be tread lightly among tenderfooted people, and have your heart protected, at the same time.