We all have different interpretations of what it means to be strong during a crisis. But, so often, when we find ourselves in the thick of it, our perception of what we should or shouldn’t reasonably be able to handle can be a little off.
When I found out my child was facing criminal charges, it felt like my life became a whirlwind of emotions. While processing heartache and fear, I also tried to fake being cheerful so that our other kiddos continued to feel a sense of normalcy. On the days, I couldn’t pull it off I would beat myself up for not being stronger. In hindsight, I can see that I was equipped with everything I needed to get through the grief, but it didn’t feel that way at the time. During that time, I wished that I was stronger. Stronger for my family. Stronger for my child. Stronger for myself. I felt weak for not being able to pick up and carry one. I hated feeling like I was constantly walking this delicate balance between controlling my emotions and being completely overwhelmed by them.
So often, I will sit with a mama, who looks off into the distance, hands in their lap, tears rolling down her cheek, and listen to her say. “I can’t do this. I’m just not strong enough.” But I don’t look at them and see weakness. I see something much different. What I see is incredible strength. Strength is not about how you feel or what you do; it’s about overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t do. I love that idea because it reframes our thinking. It shifts us away from the idea that we should be handling every situation perfectly towards an understanding that by showing up every day, we demonstrate strength to ourselves and our family.
Strength is not about holding it all together. It’s not about responding to this tidal wave of actions and consequences with barely a flinch. Expertly managing your emotions while moving through your day unaffected does not mean you are “strong.” It means something is wrong. It wouldn’t be human to go through this experience and have zero emotional response. It would mean that you are either suppressing emotions or don’t care. And I think you and I both know that any feelings that we are trying to avoid will always find a way to the surface one way or another, and any mama reading this today is without a doubt someone who cares deeply for her family.
See, strength is not about having all the answers. It’s not about completely controlling the situation or handling every scenario perfectly. But yet somehow, in our minds, those are things that we tell ourselves. Aren’t they? We expect perfection from ourselves. In fact, amid heartbreaking trauma, a dear friend once apologized for always crying. She said she gets frustrated with herself because she wants to be appropriate. Oh, sweet Jesus, can you imagine battling feelings of helplessness and heartache and the worry of handling all of it appropriately? I’ve never wanted to hug someone so bad my whole life 💕.
Strength isn’t found in the perfect reply, the perfect answer, the perfect display of emotions. Instead, strength is a journey you go on when you are confronted with a situation you can’t control, and your heart makes tiny, microscopic movements towards accepting it for what it is. Strength is not about agreeing or condoning the situation that you find yourself in but instead moving ahead and figuring out the best way forward.
Strength continues to show up despite weakness. It’s about continuing to try even when the outcome isn’t perfect. Don’t you see? The result can’t be perfect because perfection would require practice, and no one has practiced this. Strength is being brave enough to own your feelings, experiences, and healing. You are strong because every morning, you wake up and try. You are strong because you’ve sat with weakness, and it hasn’t stopped you. You are strong because you may need to withdraw and heal sometimes, but you always find the strength to keep pushing through. You are amazing, brave, and wonderful, and no one could love your family the way you do.
P.S. For more practical advice on navigating this season with strength, listen to Unyielding episode 7, Defining Strength.