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What Strong People Do

Last week there was a veritable war happening between my heart and mind and soul. A battle between what I know and what I feel; truth that feels so dang hard to remember in the midst of our circumstance. Strong people know that there is a battle for peace that they must fight to hold onto. I know this. So why do I forget?

How is it that one circumstance or one well placed blow can cause us to so easily forget what it took so long, and so much work to learn?

Many of you might remember a blog post that made rounds on social media on what it means to be mentally strong. It was a list of thirteen things that mentally strong people don’t do. For example, they don’t feel sorry for themselves, they aren’t afraid of change or risk, they don’t dwell on the past or fear being alone, and they aren’t jealous of others’ success. I couldn’t agree with this list more wholeheartedly.

But it got me thinking about those things in our past. This week brought up so many of those stories in my own past. The messy ones. The stories that make up the tapestry of our lives and the old rutted roads that paved the pathway to who we are today. Dwell on them, no. Let them haunt us or define us, never. But reflect on them, give voice to them and explore them? Absolutely, wholeheartedly YES.

There’s a delicate balance between being mentally strong and pretending that the stories we have lived, and the streets we have walked, don’t still hurt. For some of us, they hurt deeply. They manifest themselves in our current lives: in our marriage, our parenting, our sibling or parent relationships, and our friendships. Perhaps our own embroiled anger, judgment or unforgiveness toward ourselves.

Some wounds cut really deep.

For others, the past merely carries a burdensome weight that we don’t understand – but just can’t shake.

True strength lies in the ability to process through the pain of our past. We all have it. The difference is whether we talk about it, share it, explore it, and have the courage to journey through it, so that we can be healed. It’s the messy parts that make us real.

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True strength is forged when we walk back down that old rutted road and refuse to fall into the trenches. When we wrestle with and overcome the lies we believed when we weren’t old enough, or mature enough, to understand. The lies we have carried and coddled like temperamental teenagers into our very adult lives.

Little that happens to us in this life is a reflection of us, although it seldom often feels that way. If you’re anything like me, sometimes those wounds feel very much about us. The truth, however, is most people who hurt others are only acting out their own deep wounds. That doesn’t excuse it or make it easier, but we get to be free of the lie that perhaps we deserved it. The lie that this is as good as it gets.

God made you for so much more.

Strong people know that freedom is found on the treacherous journey of forgiveness. Not for the person who hurt you, but for the healing of your soul. For the strength that is not in you, but is so much greater than. Alisa Keeton said: Grace is not a fruit of the spirit because it’s something we have to continually go back to get from Him.

Grace. Forgiveness. True strength.

Do not shy away from your past. Do not fear the depth of the pain that grieves inside you. Broken is a prerequisite for redemption. 

Mentally strong people are not afraid to plunge into the depths of their soul and chase the demons away. They work to rewrite the stories of rejection, abandonment, disappointment, betrayal and loss through grownup eyes and the unswerving hope of redemption. However many times it takes.

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The only way to become mentally strong is to do the hard work. What gives you strength is finding out that you cannot do it alone. Your strength, your perspective, your heart, your feelings, your truth will fail you. This life is hard and we need real people willing to do hard work to find strength apart from the wholly incapable hands of man.

We don’t get to create a new self. We are the beautiful product of our past. The good, the bad, the pretty, and the downright ugly. It is ours. And if we don’t acknowledge it, process through it and heal from it, we will never move forward. The old is your key to the new. Strong people know you can’t get there until you go back. 

**update: Amy Morin, the author of the blog post that inspired mine, published a book from her blog post: 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do: Take Back Your Power, Embrace Change, Face Your Fears, and Train Your Brain for Happiness and Success It is both practical and relatable and full of concise tips for coping with life’s challenges. Amy’s story is both inspiring and heartbreaking as her post and subsequent book were born out of her own deep and tragic loss. Amy is a licensed clinical social worker, college psychology instructor, and psychotherapist. Her book will not only help you rethink how you process the world around you, but also drastically improve the quality of your life. Buy it on Amazon, right here.


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{ 25 comments… add one }
  • Kay Fredrick November 22, 2013, 1:38 pm

    This is a bit long for a comment, but it came to mind as I read your thoughts:

    Corrie Ten Boom of Holland was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp along with her father and sister for hiding Jews in their home. Her father and sister both perished. For years following her liberation, Corrie struggled with why God had allowed this tragedy, especially, why God had allowed a certain woman prison guard to be so cruel to her dying sister.

    God gave her an answer while she was touring one of the many European castles. Lying against the wall in the castle was a massive tapestry, mounted and stretched on a wooden frame. But Corrie could only see the underside of the tapestry, not the front. The underside was indiscernible—a confused spattering of twisted, knotted and loose dark threads.

    Then workers in the castle moved the tapestry to its proper place, and Corrie saw its upper side. The tapestry was a glorious picture of mountains, meadows, cathedrals and castles. What a difference, seeing the upper side.

    Corrie realized that the events of this life are like the tangled, confused dark threads of the tapestry — they never seem to make sense. But, in heaven, we will see the upper side of the tapestry, so to speak. We will see how God, the weaver, has woven the dark threads of this life into something beautiful. When recounting this story to audiences, Corrie liked to recite the following poem:

    My life is but a weaving, between the Lord and me; I cannot choose the colors. He worketh steadily. Oft times, He weaveth sorrow, and I in foolish pride, forget He sees the upper and I the underside. Not till the loom is silent, and the shuttles cease to fly, shall God unroll the canvas and explain the reason why, the dark threads are as needful in the Weaver’s skillful hand, as the threads of gold and silver, in the pattern He has planned. (Anonymous) (I have this poem on my piano)

    The Scripture reminds us, “God works all things together for good, to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Trust God and do not lose heart when the dark threads penetrate your life. God will bring from them good and beauty.

    • Jessa November 23, 2013, 5:11 pm

      I love this poem, Kay. Use it often. In fact, it is the theme of a blog I wrote early in October: “Dangling Threads and Knotty Spots”. Thank for this history of the use by Corrie Ten Boom (one of my favorite Christians!) of the poem and her experience with that particular tapestry you described. I will tuck this info away in my heart for use when it applies!

  • Noelle November 22, 2013, 3:24 pm

    Mercy, your words move me. Cheered on the inside through the whole read. Let’s do the “real” together.

    True strength.

    • Tammy November 30, 2013, 5:23 pm

      yes, yes. so thankful for you.

  • Melanie November 22, 2013, 4:26 pm

    This is beautiful as are you! Love it!

  • Laura November 22, 2013, 8:12 pm

    Will you please email me? I’d like to talk with you more about this. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  • Michelle November 22, 2013, 10:58 pm

    Thank you Tammy!! Your words are beautiful and this is a part of my story I have been working through for the past 1.5 years!! Thank you for putting it into words and for your encouragement to keep going when it’s hard and to be strong!!

    • Tammy November 30, 2013, 5:26 pm

      i’m so glad it resonated with you michelle! xo

  • Jessa November 23, 2013, 5:06 pm

    Love your words, Tammy! I just wrote a similar piece on this(Part 2 on the same subjects re Roots) in my blog http://www.anewleafturned.com just this week. Perhaps you &/or your readers might want to take a peek. I think our thoughts on this subject mesh well together. May you be blessed as you continue to place encouragement before others with your words, Tammy. Thank you!

  • Sarah November 23, 2013, 8:42 pm

    I appreciate your point of view with the past and how we can deal with those memories. Thank you for sharing! Visiting from Jo Ann’s link up!

  • Sel February 28, 2014, 8:56 am

    My life now? In ruins! Like that house built on the sand, its wreck is complete. The indescribable pain of being buried in the rubble of your former life, forces you to cry out, “Lord, help me”. Gentle release comes to you in His own words: “Start over”.
    As a young boy, I learned the words to Rudyard Kipling’s “If” and as a grown man I learned the meaning of those words. To .. “start again at your beginnings”, or “build things up, with worn-out tools”… all requiring a strength not of ourselves. And beneath the Will and the Strength, is the lingering fragrance of God’s Hope.
    Thanks Tammy … for bringing to mind .. Strength.. and Hope.

    • Tammy March 3, 2014, 2:33 pm

      Oh Sel…”and beneath the will and the strength is the lingering fragrance of God’s hope.” This stirs such beautiful imagery for me. I wrote a post about hope being a revolutionary patience and I believe that it is. It allows us the grace and strength and peace to do far more than we would otherwise be able to do. Praying that this time of breaking would result in the incredible blessing of Him rebuilding you whole. Blessings to you.

  • Laurie McCall September 24, 2014, 10:39 pm

    In the span of three years, I gave birth to a child with Down Syndrome, was diagnosed with breast cancer, and had my husband of twenty three years walk out on our family. I was still receiving cancer treatment and had four young children to support. I have always been very involved in my church as well as my children. It seemed my life was over and the task that lay ahead of me was daunting. My ex husband left the state with his soon to be new wife and was not part of his children’s lives in any positive way. All I could do was pray and pray I did. In the last seven years now I look back and see how far my family and I have come with the Lord’s guidance. It has been the hardest and I have cried the most,but when I have cried out for strength; it has been given to me. I am incredibly thankful. I know it did not come from me but was given to me. And now I realize that I can always depend on my Heavenly Father; for He is the source for our needs.

    • Tammy September 25, 2014, 1:59 am

      What a powerful testimony you have Laurie! He truly is the only source of our needs. What a beautiful legacy you are creating for your children. xo

  • elizabeth mooncotch May 11, 2016, 10:18 pm

    I really appreciate this post and the comment below it, including the poem. I plan to share this with the women I work with at the homeless shelter in my town. The truth simply said, thank you. Beth

  • Lora Baier August 1, 2016, 2:02 pm

    SO good for my soul this morning!!

    • admin August 4, 2016, 3:53 pm

      I’m so glad to know. Hugs my friend. xoxo

  • Kari August 3, 2016, 2:59 pm

    Thank you for the encouragement.

    • admin August 4, 2016, 3:52 pm

      You’re welcome Kari! I’m glad you’re here. xo

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