Today I answer the question that I began in my last post.
This is actually a topic that I could easily fill an entire book in order to fully explore it in all its subtleties and ramifications, so, if anything, this post is only an introduction, not a complete exposition of my personal vision of True Strength.
As I suggested in the previous post, True Strength is not mere physical might or stamina. You could lift a horse and still be a wimp when it comes to True Strength.
It is not the ruthless ability to obtain, maintain and display power. People who have a compulsive need to do this for its own sake actually suffer from a great weakness of needing their importance constantly reaffirmed by an external source.
True Strength is, to put it most simply, inner strength. By now, you may have already guessed that this is what I’ve been leading up to.
Many symbols and archetypes that depict the contrast between inner strength and loud, showy, external strength exist all throughout history, legend and modern popular culture. The biblical tale of David and Goliath, of course, is one of the most widely known ones that paints a vivid portrait of True Strength standing up to False Strength and emerging victorious. In The Lord of the Rings, the hobbits, in many ways, appear to be the weakest of the races, and yet, in the end, it is just two meek hobbits who – through courage, faith and tenacity – bring down the empire of the Dark Lord.
But simply saying “inner strength” is too vague, obvious and, ultimately, not very meaningful or helpful. I offer, thus, ten basic characteristics of True Strength. They are only the beginning, but they will at least give you a glimpse of my blueprints for this virtue as I envision it.
AXIOMS OF TRUE STRENGTH
(1) True Strength begins by acknowledging that “strength” is an important and highly desirable quality in this world. It does not deny this. However, it does not agree with the world’s pseudo-Darwinian, pseudo-Nietzschian worship of false strength. Instead, it consciously and intentionally seeks and creates its own meaning of the word. It does not automatically, unconsciously, absorb and accept the images and ideas of strength fed to it by society.
• True Strength is autonomous and independent.
(2) True Strength encompasses the qualities of honesty, sincerity, compassion, kindness, humility and courage. If you cultivate these, then no matter how meek and small you appear, you are a giant among men. If you are devoid of these, then no matter how big, important and powerful you appear, you are a little smurf.
• True Strength is quietly virtuous.
(3) True Strength means not feeling the constant need to somehow proclaim or display your strength, whatever you think it is, in a showy or obnoxious way, especially by stepping on others, for such is a form of weakness based on childish, insecure needs. You know you are strong, and this is enough for you.
• True Strength is modest and humble.
(4) True Strength means not needing to have more of anything – be it money, status, possessions or Facebook friends – to feel “better” than anyone else. In fact, it means not even having that need to feel, somehow, “better” than others, which most people do. Likewise, you do not feel lower or inferior to anyone else just because you drive a cheaper car, you went to a lower-ranked school or have a lower salary than your friends. You have nothing to prove. You are the proof.
• True Strength is secure and confident in itself.
(5) True Strength understands that the reason underlying much of people’s negative behavior is that there is something that they want that they are not getting as quickly or as easily as they want, which is natural and human. It thereby forgives them, and recommits to being patient with its own desires.
• True Strength is patient.
(6) True Strength does not personalize strength and make it “yours,” and therefore yet another possession to use to feel superior. Strength is simply and utterly a natural quality of Nature, God, the Universe or whatever term does it for you. And you are a part of Nature. Therefore, you are strong. But, remember, so is everyone else (even if they don’t realize it), and Nature cannot be superior to Nature.
• True Strength is impersonal.
(7) True Strength is characterized not by bombast and Sturm und Drang but by calm composure, particularly in times of stress and conflict when others, out of fear, can become emotional or confrontational. Being calm does not mean being weak and ineffectual. One can be dynamic and forceful – a walking hurricane – yet still resonate a sense of calm.
• True Strength is calm and composed.
(8) True Strength rejects the notion that being strong means being numb and immune to pain – whether it’s your own or the pain of others – and pretending to have a casual attitude about it. At the deepest root of this is a repressed terror of being hurt. To be genuinely strong is to be more sensitive to pain and to be willing to feel more of it. Unlike shallow pain filtered through an over-analytical mind, real, genuine pain willingly felt with all your heart and soul does not aggrandize your self-important ego. It fucking obliterates it.
• True Strength is sensitive to pain.
(9) True Strength means carefully choosing to love, care, understand, accept and forgive even when it feels so much more gratifying and easier to hate or be cold, self-righteous, aloof, bitter, indignant, resentful and vengeful. Anyone can do the latter. In fact, most people do at one time or another. It’s completely understandable. Say my lover dumps me, unfairly. How utterly human it would be for me to want to turn her into a bad person in my mind and pretend like I don’t love her. It would be my way of covering myself with emotional armor so as to avoid the feeling of hurt. But True Strength says to hell with armor. It is not afraid to stand at the vanguard of life and get shredded to pieces.
• True Strength is courageous.
(10) True Strength does not need great, big deeds to reveal and express itself. In
fact, it thrives best through everyday, small gestures of kindness and compassion. That doesn’t even mean, necessarily, things like giving money to a beggar. It can mean smiling patiently to that stressed-out clerk at the counter whom you feel more like yelling at for messing up your order. Such a tiny thing costs nothing but is not easy to do.
• True Strength operates small as well as big.
(11) True Strength realizes that the absolute worst that can happen in most everyday life situations is that despite your sincere efforts you’ll be misunderstood, underappreciated, disrespected and overlooked. Perhaps even hated. And although it does not prefer those things, and would be sad if they happened, it is still ultimately okay with them.
• True Strength cannot be defeated by external circumstances.
(12) And, finally, unlike False Strength, which seeks to conquer and dominate, True Strength merely offers itself freely as an alternative. In the end, it does not care if the world acknowledges and accepts it or not.
Because it is Strong.
• True Strength does not abandon its path out of loneliness.