“Pain is not a sign of weakness, but bearing it alone is a choice to grow weak.” ~from my book, Tiny Buddha
A while back, my friends and I dealt with a challenging situation that profoundly affected all of us, including one friend who struggles with intense anxiety.
While I’m usually a proponent of giving specifics, I’d rather not call her out publicly, so suffice it to say it was a hard time, and everyone felt the weight of it.
Unexpectedly, this friend emerged as a source of support and comfort for everyone else.
In the face of tremendous adversity, something in her shifted, and she channeled a sense of strength to help everyone else cope better.
Except, she didn’t see it that way. In a private conversation with me, she disclosed that she wasn’t strong. She was only pretending, and was secretly crumbling inside.
She was hurting, feeling deep, overwhelming emotions, and putting them aside to help other people. In her eyes, she was weak; she was just trying to be considerate of everyone else.
I told her she misunderstood the definition of strong. It doesn’t require us to not feel. It requires us to act in spite of our feelings, and to also be willing to share them, just as she was doing then.
She was admitting to me that she was struggling, after helping others who were hurting, just like her.
That isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of humanity. Sometimes we’ll need to lean on someone; sometimes we’ll be there to hold someone else up.
In a blog post I recently read about strength, a writer suggested we tell people to be strong when we’re uncomfortable with their pain—as if this implies they should stop talking, crying, or expressing themselves.
Maybe we don’t have to choose one or the other—sharing our feelings or accessing our personal power. Maybe the key to fostering fortitude is realizing it’s possible to be simultaneously strong and hurt.
Even the most firmly rooted tree can break its branches in a storm. Strength doesn’t mean we’re invincible. It means we have the capacity to move through the pain and heal.
Photo by Fuzzcat