NEW CASTLE —
Just exactly how strong are you?
I write this blog this week in honor of not one, but two of my amazing friends who are going through things the horror of which most of us can only imagine. I've been thinking about these women constantly, my heart heavy with the sorrow I wish I could take from them, and my spirit frustrated by the knowledge that I can't.
But between the tears that occasionally escape unbidden when I don't even realize I'm thinking about one of them again, I have an insight that I realize makes me a sister to these women through the hardships we've suffered: These friends have more inner strength than anyone I know.
This fact is what will get them both through their current suffering, and that is a miraculous thing. But it is also the thing that will, in ways, make their struggle just a little bit harder.
Strong women are usually just that because of the difficulties they've already endured in life. I'm sure there are a few who are born with this innate tendency, and a few more who were lucky enough to have been raised to be strong women. But most of us? We come to it through trial by fire.
We've learned our strength through weakness, and the vulnerability that comes with being hurt. We've been in a place at one time that we swore we'd never go back to again, and we began to grow the tough skin and the unyielding exterior that would keep us safe in the future. But the walls we so meticulously build always come with a price.
You see us as strong, and have no doubt, we certainly are. But you see us in ways that we are not, as well. We intimidate you, and you keep your distance. We seem as if we don't need your help, so you don't offer it. We may seem at times arrogant because we have only small circles of close friends, but it's because while we can bear all the strife there is in the world, we will only do so for those who never demand that we should.
We are not afraid to use our voice, or to cry, or to forgive. But we know as well when to be silent, when to put on a brave face, and when to walk away. We're passionate, and because of that we can hate, but it's usually only because we had at one time loved too deeply.
Don't mistake our strength for toughness. We're not perfect, and we know that, even if we seem as solid as cast iron. Those who really love us know enough to admire our strength, but also to realize that we have times when everything scares us, everything feels as if it might be our breaking point — and those who know this will hold us as if we are as fragile as delicate glass.
It takes a strong person — man, woman, or child — to love a strong woman. You are a lucky person to love a strong woman. You are luckier still to be loved by one.
To my friends who inspired this column today: I know that you will not only be OK, you will come through this stronger than before. It's little consolation now, but the trials you are enduring today will become the stories of triumph over tragedy that another woman seeking strength will need to hear.
The world needs us. And sure as God's in heaven, we'll be there.
“The strongest oak of the forest is not the one that is protected from the storm and hidden from the sun. It’s the one that stands in the open where it is compelled to struggle for its existence against the winds and rains and the scorching sun.” — Napoleon Hill