Stay strong….or not.

Being strong is talked about a lot, especially when someone is going through a crisis.

But what does it really mean to ‘be strong’? And should we be aiming at that anyway?

I wrote about being strong in my very first post – here.

And as I watch more and more of my friends deal with all sorts of horrible, traumatic events in their lives, the more sure I am that telling someone to ‘stay strong’ in the midst of those circumstances is a pretty useless piece of advice. It seems to me, what we are really saying is “Please don’t fall apart because then I wouldn’t know what to do.”

The world judges strength in all sorts of ways – by not crying, by getting angry, by getting even, by getting on with life, by laughing, by gritting your teeth, smiling and pushing on. The strength that most people want to see in others is often a denial of what is happening.

To me, that’s not necessarily strength, or not the sort I want, anyway.

And as women in particular in society right now, we are told to be tough, to be strong, to harden ourselves against all the world, men and bad relationships that life will inevitably throw at us.

You know what?

I don’t want to be tough, hard or even strong.

I want to be soft, gentle, to know that I can cry when I need to, be weak if I need to. I want to know that I don’t always have to ‘tough it out’.

Somewhere along the way, we have lost the ability to simply be. If that means we are weak Β for that moment, week, month or year, then so be it. If we don’t want to get mad, get angry or get even, that’s okay.

Being strong, to me, is crying when you need to, finding joy in the small things even as life crashes around you, it’s getting up each day, recognising it’s a hard day, crying your eyes out in the shower and yet still managing to get dressed and take the kids to school.

It’s saying “I’m not strong at all – I need you to help me” to those around us. It’s allowing ourselves to have ‘bad’ days, to simply grieve over whatever it is we are facing.

The sort of strength I’m talking about allows for the whole gamut of emotions that a crisis typically brings and doesn’t shy away from feeling them all, as painful as it is. And if a friend of mine does me the honour of being ‘strong’ in it’s true form when I’m around, then I feel privileged to be there in that moment with them, however long that moment lasts for.

How do you define strength?

23 thoughts on “Stay strong….or not.

  1. You’re so right. It’s not always appropriate to be strong. Hey, if we can sing in the shower, I don’t see why we can’t cry in the shower too.

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  2. Strength does come in all forms, and each form we exhibit depends on the situation. I never considered myself very strong until I did something I was scared to do. Once I got through it then I realized I am a lot stronger than I realized. It’s a work in progress but every day it gets a little bit easier.

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    • Ah yes, if I remember correctly…the writers conference trip, in NY was it? Even if my memory of the details are incorrect, I remember reading about that moment for you and thinking “you go, girl!!” And you are right, strength is different in different circumstances, and for different people, too, I guess.

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  3. Sometimes, yes, I try to stay strong, stay the course, etc. But once in a while a good break-down-and-cry is a good thing. I’ve done it lots of times. Just let it go (and hope I don’t have to go anywhere too soon because my nose gets all red and my eyes puff up). Last year when I went to see my apartment after the flood, I stood outside – in several inches of muck – and broke down, sobbing. A stranger came up to me and hugged me. It was so awesome (the hugging part). The hard part is approaching someone and saying, “What do you need?” And I do not like to say, “Hang in there,” because I’ve heard it so much, it means nothing. Strength is knowing when to let go. Stength is being there for your friends when they need a shoulder.

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    • You are absolutely right. True strength is knowing when to let go. It requires strength to see a friend in need and just be there, and not feel you have to ‘fix’ it for them. Bearing another’s pain can often be as hard as the pain they are going through.
      I am so glad someone was there to give you a hug when you needed it most. And the effect of kindness from strangers often stays with us for a lifetime.

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  4. Sometimes, we’re not strong. Sometimes, we need to admit that and trust that we can fall back and wait. I’ve often heard the words “You should…” applied to whatever I ought to do or think or be, when what I wanted to hear was, “I’m here. Trust me to help you through this, too.” Or, after a hug, an “I’ve got your back.”

    Perhaps our strength will be found as we let others hug us, as Karen did, or as we weep in the shower or walk in the new day. Or as we pray.

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    • Oh yes…hearing all the ‘advice’, however well intentioned, really does not help at all. Like you, I just want to know someone is there if I need them, and that they know they don’t have the answers and don’t know how to make it all better, but are committed to being there beside me anyway.

      And I agree, our strength can be drawn from so many sources – praying is a big one for me πŸ™‚

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    • Normandie, I couldn’t find an appropriate place to comment on your blog/website, so I’m hoping you pop back here at some stage πŸ™‚

      Thank you for commenting on my blog, otherwise I wouldn’t have found yours! I am very much looking forward to living vicariously through you as you sail and write – how wonderfully sublime πŸ™‚

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      • Ah, for some reason I didn’t get notified of new comments!

        What fun to have made another new friend. We miss the peace of anchorages, and now must learn to find that whoosh, that breath of Life as we breathe out the stress and breathe in Him in this new context.

        My blog has comment space, whereas the website merely has some form to fill out. I’m still figuring out how to link the two creatures, and Karen has been a big help in that area, though I have rather thrown up my hands for the moment and moved on to less stressful bits.

        My blog is at http://writingonboard.com. There is that little, tiny, baby word “comments” hidden in this newest iteration of the blog theme. Not the best, but every time I change, I lose the pictures from earlier posts. I will NOT let this wear me down.

        Oh, to be a computer wiz.

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  5. Allowing yourself the freedom to express emotion is a theme I broach in my work. One of the groups in my world is very stoical and outward displays of emotion are considered signs of weakness. My heroine finds her strength in her empathy and sensitivity, in spite of the pressures against it. Strength can be found in the strangest places, if you’re willing to see things from new perspectives. You always get me thinking, Susannah!

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    • Vaughn, often I think that I would like to go live in your book, your world πŸ™‚

      And what you said is exactly how I feel…the most unexpected people/places/books/events can provide strength in circumstances and change our perspective on our situation, and give us just what we needed, at just the right time.

      Glad it got you thinking πŸ˜‰

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  6. I will completely agree with you. I once read a quote somewhere “I love to walk in the rain, because I do not want others to see me cry”. For me this quote holds a lot of weight. Yes, it’s not necessary to be strong always. Sometimes we all need to go with the moment, go with our emotions just let those baggage of feelings reside in us come out.
    Great post.

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    • Wow, love that quote! Thanks for sharing it πŸ™‚

      Letting those feelings out is so important, isn’t it? I know for me, although my eyes and nose may be sore from crying, my heart is eased and I can get up another day. Crying actually makes us stronger, I think.

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