Recently, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be “strong”. This word can be defined in many ways but typically I think of a stoic, unemotional, tough person as being “strong”. The gruff cowboy who never sheds a tear, the woman who works her way to the top of the company, beating out the men for the position, someone who, in a moment of extreme duress, holds it together to get the job done, those are all images I often think of as showing “strength”.
But what if I have it all wrong?
It’s incredibly easy for me to slip back into numbness. After you’ve spent years there, it’s a familiar territory. On the surface this might look like me being strong, an immovable rock, but, in reality, it’s a sign of sickness, not health.
Being numb is easy, feeling is hard.
It takes courage to identify how you’re feeling. When was the last time you took a few minutes and asked yourself how you were feeling? I would imagine only a few of us have done this in the recent past.
I’m so thankful that I have many feeling friends. These are people who are consistently in sync with their emotions and are willing to express them — if you fall in that boat, know that you are a precious example to me. There are times when a friend will be angry or upset or distraught and express that to me, knowing that I am a safe space. But, interestingly enough, often (especially with women) they will apologize for expressing whatever emotion it is. But my response to them is “you have nothing to be sorry about”. We don’t have to apologize for expressing our emotions in an honest and healthy way. (Now, if emotions are being expressed in an unhealthy way that could lead to harm to the person and others, that’s a whole different conversation.)
When my incredibly brave friends are able to identify what they’re thinking and then openly express that to another, that is a sign of strength. Going to someone who is making you feel a certain way and honestly sharing that feeling is far more impressive to me than being able to bench your bodyweight at the gym.
I think in mainstream society we’ve gotten it wrong. While I will always love those characters who struggle to express themselves, I think we need more people on the big screen, in books, and in our lives who are willing to be truly strong.
If you’re a feeler, thank you for being you. Your ability to tap into your emotions is a precious gift. I hope and pray that you are able to continue learning the safe places and ways that you can share your feelings with those around you.
If you’re a thinker, thank you for being you. Your intellect and your ideas are incredible and you bring something special to the world. I hope and pray that you have the courage to examine your feelings every day and express them to God (he’s pretty easy to talk to). And then, as you continue discovering this side of you, I hope that you find a few trusted people who you can express yourself to.
Let’s be courageous, honest, and unapologetically us. After all, God made you, you are his child and his masterpiece, and you have the opportunity to display him to the world.
To go Deeper: Read The Emotionally Healthy Church, State of the Heart