“The world breaks everyone, and afterward,
some are strong at the broken places.”~Ernest Hemingway.
My mother once asked in wonderment: “How did I raise such strong women?” The irony of that question lay in the fact that she did not see herself as a strong woman. When I replied that we had her example to follow, she looked puzzled, perplexed, bemused. Many of us are not good at knowing our own strengths. We seek validation from others; need support and affirmations to tell us what we should already know. We find it much easier to judge others, to see their beauty and their flaws, to see their talents and their shortcomings. In fact we are often quicker to point out negatives than positives! In a world which is obsessed by beauty and perfection, women in particular waste too much time focusing on perceived defects.
I have been presented with a couple of examples of that inner strength in others, and realize that unfortunately, you can only know the extent of your ability to survive challenges when you are challenged. A marathon runner does not start out being able to run the distance in the best time. It is only when you push and push through pain and exhaustion and self-doubt that you discover what you are capable of. Whether the challenge is physical, intellectual, emotional or spiritual, how can you reach your greatest heights if you did not start out at the lowest depths?
When you are in the middle of a testing situation, you may not be able to see whether you are making progress or not. Like a swimmer being swept along by a strong current, you may be focusing only on keeping your head above water, and not be aware that you are actually making progress. One activity which is helpful at such times is journaling. Making notes (however brief) about your day can help you to track your growth. Then, when you flip through the pages, it is easier to see the changes, the headway you have actually made. Just like making pencil marks on the wall above the heads of your kids, it proves to them that they are growing, that one day they will be as tall as their father (or probably taller!).
Regardless of how hard a challenge is for the one going through it, it may be just as hard (if not harder) for loved ones who are watching, supporting, cheering on, taking care of business in many different ways. And while the broken one heals, and surprises those around them with their strength, grace and determination, those in the spectator stands may be just as surprised by their own strengths. There are lessons to be learned in every experience, it is up to us to pay attention and notice them.
When you wonder if you are up to life’s challenges, think back. You have probably passed through many challenges and made it. And perhaps you were so busy putting one foot in front of the other, making it through one day at a time, that you don’t even realize how big of a trial it actually was. Again, a journal would have captured that time, and flicking through the pages helps you to recall just how tough it was. It is sometimes easier to be impressed by the accomplishments of others while we belittle our own. Perhaps there is nothing wrong in acknowledging your own triumphs, not in a way which is boasty and self-promoting, but in a way which shows appreciation for the talents you have made the most of. If we all hide our lights under a bushel, the whole world will be dark.
This Friday morning I encourage you to start your own journal, a way to document small victories as well as failures, a way to heal wounds and force fresh growth. Once, when I found a list of goals I had set myself some years before, I was amazed to find that I had attained most of them, with no recollection that I had even written the list! Life is presenting us with challenges and opportunities to grow every day, seeing the growth is what makes us strong at the broken places.
May you find you have the strength you need to face life’s tests and trials; may you be surrounded by coaches and cheerleaders when you need encouragement; may you be able to recognize when it is your time to be the cheerleader. And trust me, you are stronger than you think, and you will be even stronger for having been forged in the fire.
Have a wonderful weekend Family!