What Does it Mean to “Be Strong”


I’ve been hearing the words “You’ve got to be strong” pretty often lately. And for a good reason too.

You see, my mother was recently warded at the Singapore General Hospital, for a long time ailment – Cancer – and her condition took a beating over the turn of the Chinese Lunar New Year.

Her condition has been fluctuating pretty much since her admission. She could be down in the dumps and drowsy on morphin on one day, or take on the positive persona of Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”. Her condition has taken three turns in as many weeks since she was warded – the latest, major one taking place this afternoon.

That was when the doctor called to inform me of three possibilities for her downturn, and the eventualities of each. One of those eventualities included: “You’ve got to be prepared…”, (now, you can fill in the blanks)

I’d be lying if I said my Mother’s tumultuous journey hasn’t, and does not affect me. It does – BIG TIME!

Yet, I’ve been learning to cope throughout this tumultuous journey. Mainly with the support and encouragement of my friends, relatives and mentor who have rightly told me to “be strong” for my Mother.

Just a question though… What does it mean exactly to “be strong”? And how is one qualified as that? Surely this strength has got nothing to do with physicality or the amount of muscles I have on my biceps (because I seriously have… *nevermind*)

So what qualifies a person as “strong”? Well, emotional and psychological strength will definitely fill the void. But I found those two categories a tad too generic – anything can fall under their umbrella.

Thus, based on my visits to the hospitals and the observations I’ve gathered from studying the actions and reactions of relatives of other patients in the ward, I’ve decided to chronicle some of my definitions of personal strength in the following:

Being strong does not mean not crying – it means daring to cry and being willing to carry on after that.

Being strong does not mean avoiding the truth – it means accepting it, learning about it, and dealing with it head on.

Being strong means recognising the things you can’t change, realizing the things you can do, and having the perceptivity, fortitude and wisdom to tell the difference between the two.

Being strong does not mean getting stuck in the moment, but being able to get on with one’s life despite the constraints and emcumberances.

Being strong means juggling sacrifices whilst pushing for progress.

Being strong means having the capablity and fortitude to stand steadfastly despite the blows of change.

Being strong means being the pillar of support for yours, when yours breaks down.

There’s probably a million and one definitions of what strength means out there.

What is YOUR defition of strength, and what/when are the instances you saw that “strength” being displayed?

Share them on this blog! Who knows it might be a lamp onto the paths of those still trudging in darkness?

Grow in Strength!
Follow in Fortitude!

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29 responses to “What Does it Mean to “Be Strong”

  1. Being strong means…

    having the discernment and flexibility to know when to yield, when to sail with the wind & when to sail against it rather than drift about.

    having the tenacity to keep going even when our souls are confused of the direction.

    not losing hope, no matter how tough the going gets.

    & most importantly, not neglecting yourself, your health, your priorities for the sake of you & your love ones.

    last but not least, here’s a quote that i find particularly meaningful –
    “There’s a trick to being strong, and the trick is that nobody does it alone.” ~ Elizabeth Edwards ~

    ~take care~
    han ying

  2. Hi Han Ying,

    thanks for sharing! I like the way you shared your insights, and the way you used sailing as an analogy to describe your point. I particularly liked the quote by Elizabeth Edwards too!

    Thanks for sharing with us the beautiful quote!

    Please share more with everybody! =)

    Regards,
    Gary

  3. Yes Gary, agree with you…

    Being strong is not suppressing and and appearing tough…

    It’s abt admitting a problem’s presence, embrace the emotions that come along with it, understand the situation, deal with it w wad u have and move on when it’s time to….
    :)

    Go-go Gary!!

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  6. I was pondering the same question as Gary, asking myself “What does it mean to be strong”. People have always said I was a strong person, but I’m not even sure I know what that means.

    Gary, thank you for giving the blogging world your ideas for what it means to be strong. Hopefully I can create my own definition now that I have a starting point.

  7. Hi Kim,

    Glad that you liked the post! Would love to have you back and contribute to the knowledge pool tool!

    Let me know when you come up with something yea?

    Best Regards,

    Gary

  8. Hi Gary,

    I like your choice of words for an interesting subject.

    It brought memories of my dear mother who had shown me and my siblings unconditional love. Well written with substance and logical appeal.

    I am motivated to look into all that you have written.

  9. Hi! Gary
    when I read what you had to say about being strong, I was moved. I think that in times like these when we feel vulnerable to our feelings we may fear for what the future has for us. We then can build on that fear or fight that fear. Dig deep into who you are and remember all the struggles you have gone through and that you did more than just survive. Draw strength from your beliefs and from the net work of people who love you. Just so you know your words were a great encouragement to me. Nel

  10. Hi Nel,

    glad that my post served its purpose. Even happier to note that it move and encouraged you.

    Indeed, we may not seek specifically for struggles in life… yet it’s specifically the struggles that build us up. Like butterflies emerging from their cocoon, these struggles are the things that make us strong – psychologically and mentally.

    May you continue to draw strength from those who love you and be the strength for those who need you too.

    All the best!

    Gary

  11. hi, im 15, my moms currently fighting cancer and i suffer with panic attacks so ive got to admit it hasnt been the best year so far.. people keep telling me im being really strong but i didnt have a clue as to wot that ment! i love this blog, i think it really makes people think about their feelings and your right, its about learning to deal with things! your words were really moving!! thanks alot,x

  12. Hi Kate,

    I’m glad to see you found my blog. I’m sorry to hear that your mom’s battling cancer… it can’t be a good feeling seeing her suffer.

    If it’s any consolation, I felt powerless watching her spend her days in pain. I felt helpless – I didn’t know what to do or what I could do to alleviate her suffering. All I could do was to be there by her side as she slept, fed, and hopefully, when she awoke.

    I felt small and totally inadequate – yet somehow, I began to realise that my presence presented a source of comfort for my mother – that the simple act of “being there” for someone didn’t require anything special, but the simple “act of support” meant the world to her. In a reversal of roles, I’d become a pillar of support for my mother as she fought for her life.

    Just as she had fought to keep me alive – I was looking out for her now, just as she had looked out for me when I was younger…

    It’s not going to be easy, Kate, but “be strong” for your mother. Know that your presence will bring her comfort, and your support will be her strength.

    It’s okay to cry if you need to vent your emotions… but let it out behind close doors where she can’t see you, and give her a hug at the end of every day… and tell her how much you love her.

    You’ll be surprised by the power and gratification the both of you can get, from this simple act of Love.

    May you find strength in adversity!

    Best Regards,

    Gary

  13. once again, your words mean alot! they really do! my mom is going to be ok, shes going to have an operation to get rid of it and then chemo, its not nice watching her and the hole family go through this! do you have an email address? x

  14. I have been asking myself this question for some time. I have been told that I am a strong person, but what is this quality i am meant to display. I dont often feel it myself. Looking deeper I find I have learnt that despite adversity endured, suffering will pass and times will better. Sometimes living in the moment with the knowledge that there is a light ahead is all that is required. Each experience builds on another , life is about learning your personal truth.

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  17. Hey thanks i think your right hey i might be a strong person i fight for what is right because i think that way.And we are all strong but some people are blinded.Not only that but my grandmother is really sick for her desease but i try to cry because i know i may cause pain to that person i may have my temper to get actually work on but i think i can work on that. =D

    • Hi Amanda,

      I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother. Is she doing better now? Crying is not a sign of weakness – it’s a natural coping mechanism for everybody. The only thing about it is that we should learn to stand up and move on after the cries.

      May you find courage and calm after the cries, and remain strong for your grandmother and family!

  18. I only found this site after 15 years of my dad’s passing, and I still cry. At least, it helps me to cope with the emotional stress now. thanks, Gary.

  19. Often i have wondered about the same question of being strong. While the word strength is mainly defined as power it does not tell us what being strong means. Often while growing up i have personally witnessed that being strong has being used as a reference to power. While it may be a reference to power in a way that would not be the only reference to being strong means. The only ways to be stand on and move ahead in this fast paced world of change is to have strength from the heart, mind and body. These are three elements which i find that help you greatly when a problem arises, whether it is big or small. When we are faced with big changes such as the death of a family member the best thing to do is to reflect upon it but not linger on the sadness, think of all the good times you had with that person and that they will be in no more pain anymore. Another strength comes in handy when you can not handle the pain of the moment is to ask someone for help, it will help you greatly.

  20. Dear Gary,
    My name is Tristan I am 15 and my grandfather has been in the hospital for four weeks now. I have always been told to be strong. Be strong for my mother, my baby sister, my grandmother…my friends, my family, and myself but at this point I’m tired of being strong….I’m basically raising my mother and my baby sister but people tell me things will get easier but they are just getting harder….I keep praying but it seems like no one hears my prayers….I want to stay strong but I have no clue how to right now…I did find your blog very moving but, I really just need to know how do I stay strong when I’ve been strong for everyone for 15 years and now I’m tired of it…..please help me learn how if you can?
    Sinceraly,
    Tristan

    • Hello Tristan,

      thanks for linking up and dropping me a note. I must commend you for your efforts, and for standing up to the trials. I’ve always believed that trials only serve to make us stronger, and it’s for that reason that I sense a deeper sense of maturity through your words, one that goes beyond your years.

      Yet, I can only imagine how hard (and not to mention tiring) it must be to be strong for all the people you care about in your life. Indeed, as I went through own baptisms of fire, I’d thought of giving up – but every time I did, memories of how I survived my darkest days snap to mind, and I remind myself that what comes to me, will also come to pass, and things will EVENTUALLY get better.

      Unfortunately, time always seem to stand still when we’re stuck in the storm… and after struggling with it for awhile, many of us are left exhausted and even bewildered on what else they could do and should do. The physical tiredness and lack of options do combine to make matters worse… and more often than not, weigh down on your emotions. A deadly cocktail that can push you towards a downward spiral if you ask me…

      It’s for those reasons that I’d like to suggest the following things for you to consider:

      1) Where possible, consult and confide in a trusted friend. You do not necessarily have to ask for or search for solutions – very often, we’ve got certain ideas planned, but we all need an emotional outlet to vent, and a good friend will come in handy to lend you a listening year and help you vent off some steam.

      2) Contrary to popular belief, I belief that crying your eyes and heart out serves as another outlet for you to release steam. But remember to get up after that.

      3) It is my feel now that your current predicament also stems from a lack of strategy out of your current sticky situation? That feeling of a never-ending tunnel doesn’t help to lift your spirits, or provide you with something to look forward to (re: HOPE). In this instance, would you be able to find someone to speak to to come up with a couple of strategies or solutions to help you navigate out of the current predicament? Perhaps, even approaching some friend from Church, or consulting a respected leader to gather support from a community? That could be a social or religious one, depending on which you prefer.

      ======

      The main thing is this, Tristan… There’s only so much one can do. There is no shame in seeking support, to take care of yourself and ensure your well-being, such that you may stand without withering, so that you may support the rest who need your nourishment.

      Take a break whenever possible… even if it’s 5 minutes to cry and scream, but tell yourself that you’ll always come out stronger after each episode (I still do that sometimes these days! =p) .

      And finally, include in your prayers, for Him to show you the way out… and in your own way, start looking and asking for help. If life has taught me one thing, it would be how life often presents opportunities to you only when you start looking and thinking about it enough, ie.: Start looking less at the problem, and start looking out for the solutions.

      Try these out and let me know how it goes?

      Will be keeping you in my prayers too.

      Sincerely,

      Gary

      PS: Just as a general precaution, always beware of where and who you seek help from – as there are no shortage of people trying to take advantage of the situations and predicaments of others too. That said, it’s not about not seeking help, it’s about learning to be more discerning as you navigate through life. God bless you, Tristan!

  21. Dear Gary,
    Thank you so much that really helped me….I will go to my youth minister and talk to him. I will try my best to keep your advise in mind and follow it as best as I can. I know I may not always go to the best of people for advise, seeing as how I’ve made the mistake before, but I will try my best to follow my heart and not let stress or depression get to me. I appretiate all of your help Gary, Thank you so much for everything, May God Bless you and your family. Best of wishes, Tristan.

  22. hi i am not good with englih writing for wich i am sorry ,but i will sea only this for me to be strong is never to give up even if you know you will lose , so do wath is right aweys, to be strong meens not to act selfeshly you will see that is more hard this way but is the right way,to be strong meens alot of hings that i can explan to you just writing it but i will tell this and remeberet well awyas act whit love awyas you well see how much straght you will need.Well in de end i will tell you this in the name of GOD dont give up in wath is right, never awyas think of the people you love and try to forgive of the people you heat. And last you will nedd a lot of faith becouse The act of not doubting’. That is strength! . I hope i motivet you little bit

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