Strong is a Verb

“Invincibility is not a human characteristic.”—NCIS, S05E10

  

I have lived through life feeling like I needed to learn how to be strong—the kind of strong it takes to never have cracks, to never show vulnerability, to ultimately be impervious to any pain. To never falter, no matter how strong the winds. To never break down, no matter how heavy the load. Strength, as I understood it then, was synonymous to nothing less than invincibility.

  

But life teaches you things.
It taught me a few things along the way.

 

One, that the kind of strength that never breaks down and never falters is rarely, if at all, authentic strength. It is a steel armor, unyielding on the outside, yet airless underneath, heavy and stifling to the wearer. It is difficult to move with. And when the blow is strong enough—though it remains whole—it becomes vessel to a hundred tiny pieces born out of the breaking beneath it.

Two, that instead of an unbending steel armor, what we call human strength has character more like elastic rubber. The people we call strong are not the ones who have been completely untouchable by trauma, suffering, and emotional upheaval. On the contrary, they are usually the ones who have gone through the worst of ordeals, broken down and lost hope at one point or another, and yet somehow found a way to bounce back and keep on, every bit proud of the scars they have to show for all the times they were driven to the ground and have gotten back up.

 

Thus, strength, as I now understand it, is less about invincibility and more about resilience. It is not seen in not ever being crushed, or in not ever being defeated. Rather, it is manifested in the capacity to regain form after every unforgiving stretch, to persist in bouncing back up after every devastating defeat. It is less about pride rigidly standing tall, and more about a kind of humility able to bend in order to adapt to the circumstances and yield when the situation demands it.

 

Strong, therefore, is not something any of us inherently is. It is not even something we become as an end state, after years of being hardened by struggle or numbed by pain. Strong is something we do, a decision we make every moment of every day. To “be strong” is to make the decision to get up and go on, despite everything. And again, it’s not a one-time thing, like get-up-in-the-morning, today-I-decide-to-be-strong-for-the rest-of-my-life-thing. It’s more like a weathering of waves that come in unpredictable surges. Some days it’s easier, some days it’s harder. Some days the pain breaks through anyhow.

 

But no matter what the preceding or ensuing moment, at every point, strong can be chosen. Invincibility may not be a human attribute, but agency is.

Strong can be chosen.

Strong can be done.

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12 thoughts on “Strong is a Verb

  1. Strength is your best choice. It’s easier for those of us with a home to retreat to, food to nourish us and a pillow to cry into. But if one lives in a violent household filled with junk, strength is the harder option.i would say be as strong and resourceful as you can, use your individual talents to better the situation and never let the hurtful see you upset. Chin up, make them wish they could be the amazing person that you are.

    • I totally agree. Some situations are harder to weather than others. Nonetheless, one must do what one can. Greater demands could represent greater opportunity to practice strength. Thank you for reading, and for sharing your thoughts on this! 🙂

  2. Strength is founded by “FAITH.” If you have faith, you can be strong. You can face challenges, defeat, pain, fear or anything as long as you have faith and hold on to it. Faith in yourself that you can, and faith in what you believe in. Hold on to it and you can have the strength you n eed.

  3. I have to agree with this, and yet also think strength isn’t even the most important virtue (when facing certain crisis). I see people champion this trait so much, they won’t let themselves be vulnerable at all, nor let anyone else truly be in a situation where that response might work pretty powerfully.

    Also marketing the idea of strength as unmovable or unbendable (similar to your idea here).

    You are right, not true strength…

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