I asked my friends to describe me using one word. It was interesting to read their responses, but not surprising, because many wrote ‘strong’ and I know I am, but with a lot of help from God. Once in awhile someone tells me I’m tough and that chafes a bit with me. For a while I didn’t really understand what it was about that word that bothered me, except that I had an innate feeling it just wasn’t correct. We’ve already established that I’m a person who needs answers, in one form or another, so I decided to check the definitions.
Dictionary.com describes strong in two separate categories – physical and mental – and aside from the definitions of physical strength, I found these: of great moral power, firmness, or courage; mighty; capable; valiant; brave; bold; intense; persuasive; conclusive; steady; firm; secure; unwavering; resolute; fervid; vehement; brilliant; vivid
Their definition of tough is as follows: strong and durable, not easily broken or cut; not brittle or tender; capable of great endurance; sturdy; hardy; hard; inflexible
It became a bit clearer to me why I will accept strong, but not tough. I know I’m courageous – I chose freedom over abuse at the possible cost of my life. Capable? Ask my seven children how often they’ve gone without a home, food, clothes, and even the ‘extras’ that make life easier. Brave? Bold? Intense? My ex is in prison for a long time; I didn’t give in even when we were in danger. Persuasive? I’m just gonna chuckle at this one because I’m very rarely told no. Conclusive? Oh, yes. If you’ve read my past entries, you already know it. Steady, firm, unwavering, and resolute? I support eight people alone. There is no alimony, no child support, and there never will be. As far as security, it’s something I strive to give to my children now because they began their lives lacking in that area. So those are some of the attributes listed for someone who is strong.
Let’s take another look at what is considered tough. Not easily broken. Definitely not me – I keep my heart behind a wall because it breaks very easily. Not tender? When most people are around me I can see how they might think this because I’m not physically affectionate or emotional, but I just choose who will see my emotions. If I cry around you – and believe me, there aren’t many who see me cry – it’s because you are one of the very few I trust with my feelings. Capable of great endurance? Nope. Guess who makes it seem as though I am the one enduring? God. He carries me, don’t ever doubt it. Sturdy? I’ll agree with this because when I checked the definition it said ‘indomitable’ and that’s me. Hardy makes me think of a plant surviving in severe conditions, and since I’ve bloomed where God planted me, I’ll also agree with hardy. But then comes hard and inflexible, of which I am neither. Hard hearts don’t weep at the beauty of a song written straight from the soul of their hurting child, or feel profoundly moved when their little ones giggle with joy, or rejoice at seeing the sun set because it signifies another day of freedom and life. Hard hearts don’t love fiercely, nor do they give with no thought of return. And inflexibility is never a trait one can utilize successfully in a home with 7 children – every day we learn to negotiate, pick our battles, and sometimes just give in. I teach them to find their balance.
I still believe that strong better describes me rather than tough. Recently I received a text from my daughter who was running a deep fryer at work even though her hands were covered in blisters from an allergic reaction. She told me the pain was horrendous, but she was doing it anyway because she’s tough. I texted back that she’s doing it because she’s strong, not tough, never be tough. Maybe now she’ll get the gist of what I meant. I’ll be strong until my last breath, but I never want to be tough. Never.
What do you think?