For men to be whole, the image of the strong man must change.
Traditionally, strength and masculinity go hand in hand. A male perceived as weak—physically or emotionally—is told by other men, or women too, to “man up” or “be a man.” This means pushing through pain, stifling emotions, and denying his actual human vulnerability. But what does it really mean to be a strong man? To me, true strength requires a strong sense of self-awareness, a strong sense of your own values, and a strong sense of the need to act when those values are challenged.
The words I wrote below on strength are more meditation than instruction, and they serve to remind me of what being strong means.
Strength is the impetus that gets us moving.
Strength is not brute force, for very little is ever accomplished in this world without communication and cooperation.
Strength is a quiet, persistent, unstoppable sense of purpose.
Strength should not be confused with denial, stoicism, or refusal to seek or accept assistance.
We can cry and still be strong.
We can collapse and still be strong.
We can draw strength from others and still be strong.
We can be vulnerable, and be strong in our vulnerability.
Strength is knowing we can be broken in a million ways but never, ever destroyed.
Strength is persevering when things are hard, acknowledging and accepting unpleasant truths, and gratefully receiving the inspiration that comes when we connect with our feelings and let the spirit enter our lives.
To maintain our strength, we must not only exercise our psychological muscles but also practice inhabiting the space of strength, a space the ego is not permitted to enter, a space where we let our guard down and open our selves up, let feelings flow, a space where we can be still and engage in receptive listening.
If we listen carefully enough in the space of strength, we begin to hear a voice.
Hush, we say, to all the competing voices—shame, worry, self-doubt.
I need to hear this whisper.
I need to hear my call.
Be still, we say, to all the demons circling, frantically pointing their barbed tails towards diversions, distractions, derailment.
I am not going to go that way. Not this time.
Strength is not about battle or victory, but about aligning the full force of our effort towards the outcome we are meant to achieve.
Strength is found not in resisting but in accepting and embracing our call.
Strength is not refusing to bend, but bending our will to live the life we are meant to lead.
Portions of this article originally published on Tom Aplomb.