As Told To Critical Bench by Mike Gillette
In preparing for this book project, I reached straight for Webster’s Dictionary. The reason was to provide a clear frame of reference regarding my ideas about strength so that everyone can understand them.
So here is what Webster’s says about strength, what it means to me, and how I apply it in the real world…
First and foremost, strength is defined as “the state of being strong.” This makes sense, right? But the definition expands from there, stating “the power of resisting attack… impregnability.”
But what does that mean specifically? Well, start by thinking about the word ‘impregnability’ and imagine having the ability to resist attack and go from there. Think for a moment about the sorts of things that you actually are attacked by.
You get ‘attacked’ by other people’s attitudes and situational circumstances. And of course you can also be attacked by actual hostile aggression.
There’s an old expression; “Weakness invites tyranny.” While that expression is actually about politics, this same idea plays out on the street all the time. We might refer to this as ‘the politics of the street’. It’s the whole bully dynamic where a bully perceives weakness in another person. This perceived weakness emboldens a bully and causes him to harass or even attack the other person.
But strength introduces stability into a situation… It calms things down.
Strength often prevents the different kinds of attacks that you experience every day. Now let’s look at another example…
Strength also provides the power to resist stress, meaning it promotes what I refer to as ‘durability’. What kinds of stress are we talking about?
Well there’s physical stresses such as discomfort, illness or fatigue and even emotional stress. And if you think about the words I just listed, they are all in opposition to the very idea of strength. They literally sound like opposite terms.
But possessing strength is what allows you to handle those things, to be durable. Strength is also about the capacity for effective action, we can call this a ‘show of strength’. Remember what I just said about perceived weakness and how it invites trouble?
Well projecting the capacity for effective action, really projecting it, can make trouble go away. Now this is fundamentally different than puffing out your chest and acting like a jerk. That kind of thing invites trouble.
People who do that are actually projecting insecurity or instability. Those things never calm a situation down. A strong man doesn’t have to do anything, and often doesn’t even have to say anything. He settles things down simply by showing up.
And if the other people around him decide to make poor life choices..? Well, those choices may require some effective action. A strong man can deliver that action but he doesn’t do it out of anger and he doesn’t do it out of an inability to control his emotions.
A strong man simply does what needs to be done.
There’s an old Samurai saying that speaks to this, which states; “Only the strong can show mercy.” This is absolutely true. Mercy, which is a pretty noble quality, can only come from someone who is strong.
If you are weak, the best you could do is beg for mercy. And I don’t think anyone reading this wants to be a weak person.
The last thing that Webster’s says about this subject and this is really important, is that having strength means having the ability to maintain a moral or intellectual position firmly. Now think about that for a moment.
In this day and age… so enlightened and politically correct, almost nobody is willing take a stand or actually stand for anything. We’re so concerned about being tolerant that we tolerate almost anything.
It’s a rare person anymore who maintains their own ethics and their own sense of morality, and it takes strength to do that, real strength.