The Barbed Wire Jacket

Barbed wire

Years ago, I had an intense relationship with a man who was tender on the inside and rage-filled on the outside.  I learned a lot about a lot of things from our relationship.  One of the biggest lessons was my discovering the Barbed Wire Jacket.

What I found in my partner was someone who so badly wanted love, but was afraid to be hurt.  To protect his tender heart, he put on a Barbed Wire Jacket, so no one could get close.

Unable to penetrate the spikes and wire, it was, of course, that very jacket that kept people away from giving him the love he needed.  This made him more unhappy, so he added layers to the jacket.

And he never realized that the only thing that would make him whole, bringing him the love he craved, was to remove those layers of protection – to let people in.  He never saw that what protected him from being hurt was also protecting him from being happy.

We all do this.  We do it as individuals, for certain.  We protect our tender hearts. We put up walls. We keep our real selves hidden from the world.

But we do it as Community Benefit Organizations as well.  We put up walls against our “competitors.” We guard our donors, our board members, our volunteers, so no one else can get them.  We do our planning as single organizations, because – what? You want us to all plan together?  Then our competitors would know our secrets!

As individuals, our Barbed Wire Jackets hamper our lives.  As organizations, our Barbed Wire Jackets hamper our ability to achieve our vision for a healthy, vibrant, resilient, compassionate place to live.

Individuals and community organizations – we all want the same thing.  We want love and support in our quest to be whole, in our quest for purpose.  That wholeness and purpose is not an alone thing.  It is an everyone thing.  As individuals and especially as organizations, our purpose and wholeness comes from building community (together), not building empires (alone).

As we live our lives, can we seek to identify the Barbed Wire systems we have built to keep the outside world at bay?  And especially as organizations focused on creating change, can we vow to cut down those Barbed Wire systems once and for all?

What can we accomplish together that we cannot accomplish alone? Watch here.

(Or watch the entire 52 minute version here)

2 Responses to The Barbed Wire Jacket

  1. Hildy,
    Today I attended a meeting betwee a group of potential grantees and a large non-profit grantor agency. The agency was explaining the requirements for us to apply for a new competitive grant.

    At the beginning of the presentation, the grantor asked us each to introduce ourselves and briefly describe our organizations and their missions. What struck me was how much we could potentially contribute to each other’s efforts. During the question and answer session after the meeting, I asked if we could have each other’s names and email addresses. Our facilitator said that no one had asked that question before, and asked the attendees if they were willing to share that information. Everyone agreed.

    We can accomplish some wonderful things for our community if we will work together. Everyone is working very hard on their own tasks; why not combine our talents?


  2. Thank you for giving it such a descriptive name. For too long our communities have languished and disappeared, because of these politics. Those that are truly needy are shunned. Those that offer to help, find the barrier imposable to breach. Maybe the only way to break through, is to reach the youth, through School programs and ministries.It is easy to give up when your neighbor has his foot upon your neck,and his hand in your pocket. Fear and greed rule the streets, and the illusion of love is painted on every smile. Charity,and true compassion become black market deals. We pedal our love for one another like drug dealers, unseen , by word of mouth, with a hand shake.