When I think of strength I think of my Dad. He wasn’t the bodybuilder or lumberjack type. He was a man with little education who came from another country and started a small business. He always provided for his family, he was there and he never wavered, even after he and my mom broke up when I was 11, even after my brother, sister and I had grown and moved out. He was the steady rock of our family. He never complained, he carried a mirthful attitude with him wherever he went. He had a smile and a kind word for everyone despite living with decades of chronic pain. I am ashamed to admit I never really noticed this until after he was gone…funny how that works…funny how my image of what it is to be strong changes as time goes by…
Big muscles don’t always equate with strength, there is also another kind of strong. The inner strong. A person’s will, resolve, resilience; that which endures and continues. It is a quiet and powerful. It’s sublimely subtle, not flashy at all. It declares itself not. It just is. It’s what enables us to hang on one second more, hold out hope one more time and this very thing can save us when all else fails. It is born of necessity and it grows in jagged stages marred by pain and shaped by experience.
We grow stronger by allowing ourselves to be weak, to fail, to fall. We gain strength by getting up again and again…and again. Our eventual redemption is not only made of this, it depends on it. It is at the bottom of that dark abyss of hopelessness that we can find that very hope that can sustain us. Those who have been thrust into this abyss know full well there is a light in the dark; it is wondrous and strong, it is beautiful, it is divine and it is in each and every one of us.
We are stronger than we believe. We need to believe this. We need to be honest with ourselves and listen to our hearts–therein lies strength; it is in the almighty power of love.
Strength does not lie in oppressing others, or by putting them down. The illusion of superiority does not make anyone stronger or better or more deserving than anyone else. Good fortune and adversity alike mold us into what we are today. The “protection” of privilege cannot purchase anything of any true value. This must be earned by our experiences and our reactions to circumstance.
To show compassion and kindness is strength. It is the strong that are big enough to see beyond themselves to the greater picture that includes us all. It is by giving away that we gain. It is by being the steady rock for others to hold on to we can find the strength to hold on ourselves. I am learning this slowly, like a rock.
“Be strong. Live honorably and with dignity. When you don’t think you can, hold on.” ~James Frey