What does “true strength” mean to you?
I used to think of most things in the context of the comic book characters whose posters and movies which would adorn my walls. I sometimes still think of athletes who can do incredible feats with their bodies. I think of inner courage, heart, and perseverance, especially in the face of near impossible odds.
Yet when I want to look for an example that we can learn from, I spend my time searching the internet for the things I listed and come up short. Isn’t it odd, the things that I want to associate with being true strength I only half-heartedly support, instead relying on some physical example to fulfill the need to “see it” in action?
Are Superman’s limitless powers true strength? Of course, flying into the sun takes some balls. In his case, it also maxes his pedigree and bench press by doing so. Moving mountains and trains and other giant objects that weigh more than what can be defined numerically counts as strength too. It’s also impossible strength.
Moving to athletics. Bo Jackson highlight videos are illustrations of strength. As are JJ Watt and any defensive end who can push over a 300 lbs man. Finesse is also in there, and combining those two elements makes for some magical video viewing.
True strength is harder to characterize than only in a physical embodiment. Perhaps that’s one of the draws to Rocky Balboa, despite the fact that he had a considerable physical ability. That inner voice that won’t allow you to quit, no matter what, is something that only the truly strong have.
Speaking of Rocky, it takes strength to face our fears, especially when that fear stands 6’2″, weighs 230 lbs, has a mohawk and delivers pain. Strength isn’t just a physical attribute, it’s internal too. Rocky showed me how to face and overcome fears in powerful ways.
What about Mother Teressa or Ghandi? Those two people stood up against oppressive regimes, fighting for the ignored and abandoned, and didn’t use violence as their weapons, even in the midst of violence. That takes real strength, strength that no physical attribute can grant you.
I’ve been reading the autobiography of Muhummad Ali. It shows the man’s inner strength was the real force to be reckoned with.
The most endearing attribute of Ali has more to do with how he stood up for his beliefs in the wake of the draft and the war in Vietnam than any of his championship belts. How he stood in the face of hatred from his own countrymen and women because he didn’t want to shed the blood of another man, how he was ostracized and called anti-American because he didn’t want war is incredible to conceive. Withstanding that kind of rhetoric and public sentiment while not lashing out against anyone took more strength than anything else he did in or out of the ring. And yet it’s not something we would associate with him as strength until we’re confronted with it ourselves.
In this space of growth farming, where cultivating seeds of connections with new people is the method of achieving success, it takes a different kind of strength to win. It takes inner determination, love, grace, empathy and compassion. It takes us going first, initiating the connections and doing things differently than what has come before us.
It takes us finding that we’re made of more than just what we think. Inside you and I are what looks like the muscle-bound warriors whose physical appearance gives us inspiration. Yet that need for leadership, courage, risk-taking, vulnerability, and perseverance are the true measures of strength that draws our tribe in.
It’s actually these qualities that make us grow, because that’s the change that we all want to see in the world. Your heart makes you strong. What you put into it is what fruits will come out from it, and what will draw others to you.