These are two of my favourite quotes:
Strength. Who doesn’t love the idea of being strong?
It’s just … how do we get there?
Luckily for you I googled it.
How to get strong …
So … what do you want to know about: Strong arms? Strong abs? Strong legs? Glutes? Pecs? Biceps? Or how about hair and fingernails? Bones? Teeth and gums? Social media connections? There’s lots of info on those, too.
A quick search of “how to get strong,” yields pages and pages of ways to strengthen your physical body; tons of ways to get ripped, shredded, sexy, and toned. All interspersed with tips on how to build your social media influence, avoid hair splits and nail breakage, and how to keep your bones solid, your gums pink, and your teeth rooted inside your head.
How to get strong …
Scrolling … scrolling … scrolling …
Ah! Page six. Here’s something different: How to get strong Pokemon!
Scrolling … scrolling … scrolling …
Ooooo … Page eight, onwards – now we’re forging into new territory: Steroid alternatives, wi-fi and cell phone signals, magnets, brews from your K-cup, marijuana roots, adhesives, sperm, and eyebrows like Rihanna. You can even get strong on E-Bay!*
Hmmmm … not exactly sure that search answered my question. Not sure those results are what my two favourite quotes are talking about.
So, what is it about those quotes anyway? Why are they so appealing to me? Why do I want to be like those women? What do they have that I don’t?
Maybe I’m asking the wrong question. Maybe the question isn’t “How do we get strong,” maybe the real question is, “Why do we think we aren’t?”
After my blog post last week a friend that I’ve known since college messaged me and told me she’s in the arena, too. One of her comments during our conversation was: “I thought I was way stronger than that!”
Don’t we all? Don’t we all think we are – or at least hope we are – “stronger than that?”
But stronger than what, exactly? What have we all been measuring our strength against? The condition of our abs? Rihanna’s eyebrows?
Or do we think strength is
having clout? The upper hand? The loudest voice, the wittiest comebacks, the most cutting remarks?
Or do we think it’s maintaining a packed schedule? Having our hand in as many committees, social clubs, teams, groups, opportunities as possible?
Or is it the ability to prove ourselves? To be independent, self-sufficient, not put up with any BS?
Or is it quite simply what google tells us: That if you strengthen your physical body all will be as it should be? Everything else will magically fall into place?
No matter which definition of strength we hold to, it’s no wonder we often feel we can’t measure up. It’s no wonder we think we aren’t strong. That we feel we need to be strong. Maybe it’s the tears that betray us. Or the need to take a break. Or not having an equally witty or cutting comeback. Or needing help. Or needing space. Or maybe it’s just feeling like we’re being swallowed alive by our own humanity.
Humanity. That’s the culprit! Our humanness! That’s what kicks in and gets in the way of us being strong! Our tendencies to think, feel, and respond are what trip us up. Especially those stupid feelings. Feelings make us weak. If only we didn’t have them. If only we could shut them off – then we’d be unstoppable.
But what if …
What if we were unstoppable? What if we could shut our feelings off? Would we be strong then? I’m not sure. But I am pretty sure we’d stop being human.
We don’t operate primarily on instinct, like animals do. We aren’t controlled by programming like technology is. We don’t even fall in with the hard-drawn laws of physics (and whatever other laws there are) like the rest of the universe does. We’re human and therefore we function at a very different capacity. A capacity that encompasses not only the ability to feel and think and respond, but also to develop character. Integrity. Self-control. Perseverance. Spirit. Grit. Tenacity. Confidence. Chutzpah!
(Or you may prefer to call it Inner Strength)
Aha! Something my google search on “how to get strong” didn’t find.
So how is this Inner Strength achieved? By feeling. By thinking. By enduring hardship and times of weakness. The very things we think betray us and take away our strength are what actually make us strong. Another two-sided coin, like darkness and light; another unsplittable part of our existence and growth as human beings. You can’t have light without darkness; you can’t have strength without weakness. Darkness makes the light possible; weakness makes strength possible. Strength achieved by any other means is a counterfeit. It’s hot air. It’s shallow and pompous and false. It’s self-seeking. Devoid of feeling. And it does more harm than good.
On this, Good Friday, I’m reminded of Jesus. Standing before Pilate, when accused, he said nothing. He was mocked, and remained silent. He walked the Green Mile as he walked his life: Humbly. Graciously. Assuredly. He didn’t try to prove himself. He didn’t incite violence or demand respect. He embodied Inner Strength. He taught us how to be human. How to feel deeply. He led this quiet, peaceful revolution that resulted in his death. But it was one that turned the world upside down. One that makes the darkness light. One that makes the weak strong. One that makes the dead alive.
As I write these words, I don’t feel particularly strong. Not in the popular understanding of the word, anyhow. But I live in an upside down world where the weak are strong and the dead have life. No googling required.
*I wonder if different countries yield different results. How many pages does it take before the focus blurs from the physical realm in other parts of the world?