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.
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.
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.