My friend A is going through the challenge of her life. This past summer she discovered that her husband is a closet drug addict, that he’s plummeted their family into a whirlpool of debt, and that he lost his job—months ago. A feels betrayed. Stupid. Lost. Frightened. “But mostly I feel weak,” she admits. “Right now I need to be stronger than I ever have, for myself, our children, and our family. How do I do it?”
It wasn’t that many years ago I was where A is. One night I waited until the kids were all asleep. I knelt at my bedside and tried to pray. I didn’t have the strength to muster a single word. All I could do was curl like a comma on the floor, all night long, too empty and broken and weak to even reach for a cover to pull over my cold, bare feet. That’s how weak I was.
Fast forward to this past weekend. With God’s help, I hiked a mountain.
So yeah, it’s possible to do the impossible. It’s possible for anyone.
If you’re going through something that requires strength, but you feel weak, there’s no one-size-stretches-to-fit-all solution. But there is a way to be stronger than you suspect possible. Over the past thirty years I’ve worked with 12-steppers, addicts and displaced people from all corners of the globe. I’ve seen lives as shattered as Humpty-Dumpty’s. The people who manage to rise in wisdom and strength all have one thing in common. Let’s spell it out.
- F is for FEEL. Just because we feel weak doesn’t mean we are. Strong people understand the nature of feelings. They’re fickle and fleeting. Even the good ones. So strong people feel what they feel. They don’t deny, suppress or try to change their feelings. They might not even act on them. They simple identify and accept what they’re feeling, but refuse to feel sorry for themselves or blame someone else for how they feel.
- X is for X-ING OUT what needs to be gone. Strong people X out the parts of their past that caused them pain. They don’t deny that painful things happened, but they don’t allow them to keep happening. X out old stories that always end with you as the victim. X out hurdles that make your mind palace an obstacle course. We refer to our former lovers as our “exes.” Know why? Because ex is a Latin word for “out of.” So get whatever hurts you “out of” your life. Put up borders and boundaries and buy guard dogs if you have to, to keep those X’ed out things from coming back. And don’t you dare feel guilty for X-ing out what needs to be out. It’s your sanity. It’s your sanctuary. It’s your strength. Keep these things safe at all costs.
- E is for ENERGIZE. Strong people look for sources that bring them strength. It might be a nutritious meal. It might be a sweaty workout. It might be a heartfelt prayer or a long meditation. Go for a walk in nature to renew and restore your energy resources. Read a book that inspires you or just transports you to somewhere you want to be. Make love all night long. There’s nothing like the human touch to energize you. And don’t underestimate the replenishing powers of a good night’s sleep. It’s when glial cells detoxify your brain. Seriously. These hard working brain cells (only recently discovered) put their best effort forth while you’re fast asleep. They remove toxins and leftover residue from the billions of chemical reactions that take place every day in your brain.
- L is for LET GO. “Let go and Let God” is a tattered, but powerful AA motto. It means to let go of whatever is holding you down and holding you back. Let go of fear, resentment, unforgiveness, hatred, disappointment, pain, frustration, whatever it is. Let it go.
- U is for UNITY. It’s true that strength is found in numbers, and that we all need our tribe of people we can count on. More than that, strong people are internally uified. There’s harmony in the mind and the heart. In an earlier post we learned that integrity means whole. Strong people are not internally divided. Though they might be broken and bruised, what they believe on the inside is what they live on the outside.
- R is for REPAIR. This is huge. Strong people take the time to repair things right away when they break. Strong people don’t tolerate leaky faucets. They stop the drip before it drives them slowly crazy. Same with a leaky character. They repair as they go and don’t wait until the problem is so big it can’t be fixed.
- E is for EXPECT. Strong people expect good things to happen—when they happen. They take an, “It’ll all work out,” approach to life. That means admitting that we are powerless. God is the only one with the ultimate controller in His hand. He says when life starts, when it stops, when it slows down and when it speeds up. Struggle is part of life. It’s what makes is strong.
You’ve just spelled our word of the day: FLEXURE.
FLEXURE means to bend. It’s the secret I want you to always remember. The strongest people on earth are people who bend and roll with the punches. They don’t go rigid and brittle and break when they take a hit. They accept and adapt through flexure. The overused analogy is a tree in a storm.. It does not uproot…because it bends. It does not stop providing shelter or shade because it bends. It does not stop being a mighty tree because it bends. It survives because it bends. And because it bends it takes on a shape unique to the challenges it conquers. In other words, it becomes stronger.
Learn to bend, my friend, A, and my friends everywhere. It’s how to be strong when you feel weak.