The Virtue of Strength

When you think of strength, the first thing that might come to mind is that of some burly individual able to pick up heavy weights. And though that may be a legitimate mental picture, strength goes beyond the ability to lift heavy objects. But since that may be your mental picture, let us start with the body.

Strength of Body

What are the benefits of a strong body? The stronger you are, the easier it is to complete physical tasks with more efficiency. This could be climbing the stairs with less discomfort. It could be carrying the groceries from the car to your kitchen with less struggle. Being strong gives you the freedom to accomplish the things that needs to get done without undue taxation on the body. The building of strength today benefits what you can do tomorrow.

Strength of Mind

Can you push through the barrier past the pain of exhaustion? As much as you need a strong body, you need to develop a strong mind. You must be able to will yourself to go farther than you think you can. I can’t count how many times I have wanted to give up while running. My mind is looking for ways to get me to stop. It is looking for the smallest reason to use as weapon against me in the game of mental warfare. The body is willing and capable, but the mind needs conquering. As Zeno said, “Man conquers the world by conquering himself.” The way to do this is to train your mind to overcome adversity.

Strength of Soul

I am reminded of the monk who sat still in the middle of the road as he burned to death. Both his body and mind were strong. But to willingly cross the threshold of death with the knowledge that there is no coming back to the body, that takes a heart and a soul of immense strength.  I don’t recommend you try it, but you can learn to challenge your fear. You can incrementally increase your courage.

The belief that becomes truth for me…is that which allows me the best use of my strength, the best use of putting my virtues into action.

André Gide

You cannot use the strength you do not have. If you want to be strong, you must develop it. And like a three-legged stool, each leg must be trained equally. If not, you will topple over.

How does this relate to the virtue of Justice? To do what is right requires strength. Strength then is a virtue, and one that we can all strive towards.


Feature photo by Vicky Sim on Unsplash

Strength vs. Will

Exercise: If I do the workout, I will get stronger. I can build the strength, but I must have the will.

Nutrition: Sugar or alcohol or both. Do I have the strength to abstain? Of course, the strength is not a problem. Do I have the will? Ah, that is the problem.

Sleep: Early to bed, early to rise. Strength or will? It takes extraordinarily little physical effort to get out of bed. But to turn off the television and the phone at night, to resist hitting the snooze button in the morning, that takes will.

Mind: Knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. What physical strength is needed to garner these? It is not a matter of strength but one of desire. It is a matter of choice. Do you seek to learn? Are you willing to observe? Do you crave wisdom?

Soul: Courage, bravery, the ability to keep going despite the odds. Indeed, this does require a certain amount of strength within the soul. But like the body, it can be developed. You must be willing to do it. It is better to develop the heart of the warrior before you go to battle.

Lacking in strength is a problem, but it can be corrected. In almost every facet of your life, you can become stronger. Do you have the will to make it happen? Do you have the discipline to see it through?

Victor Hugo once said, “People do not lack strength; they lack will.” The great French writer knew what he was talking about. Les Misérables took over twelve years to write and had over 655,000 words. It was not strength that got this work done, it was will. It was discipline to see it through to the end.

Strength to Carry the Load

I remember the early days of road marching. My rucksack, loaded with all my gear, was heavy. The rifle I carried got heavier with every step I took. My muscles ached. My feet hurt. As the strain in my back and neck crept toward what I thought was the “unbearable” threshold, my thoughts turned to wishing I had a lighter load, wishing I had a shorter distance to travel. “If only…” was always in my mind.

“If you are going through hell, keep going.” –Winston Churchill

What should I have been thinking? What should I have been praying for? Not that I had less to carry, but for the strength to continue on. I should have been praying for the courage to keep going. If I could have got all the negative wishes out of my head, I may have actually enjoyed those forced marches.

An amazing thing happened as I continued to march over the weeks. The more I carried that weight, the stronger I became. In time, with much repetition, that burden was no longer unbearable. The load wasn’t lighter, my ability to carry it was stronger.

Be patient and tough; one day this pain will be useful to you. -Ovid

Last week, I had a conversation with a friend concerning a professional trial he was enduring. One of his department heads, bitter for not getting the same promotion, was continually trying to undermine his authority. Upset with the previous command, this department head is determined to continue adding a layer of toxicity to the new regime. As frustrating as it is for my friend, this complex relationship has a few benefits that can make him stronger for the future. It is a constant test with many eyes watching his every move. He has to be impeccable in his behavior and conduct.

As I listened to my friend discuss his trials, I thought of the ones I am closest to that are going through their own set of trials. I considered loved ones who are going through some of their roughest times physically, financially, and emotionally. And then I thought of Job. Do you remember the story of Job.

Job had a good life. He had a good wife, healthy children and close friends. He was doing well financially and really wasn’t lacking in any area of life. On what seems like a whim, God allowed Satan to test Job. So Satan took it everything from Job. Gone were the children and gone was the wealth. This would have been enough to destroy most people, but not Job. His response, “The Lord gives and He takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Satan thought it was too easy, so he went after Job’s health. Even after this, Job remained faithful.

Not many of us have ever endured the level of suffering that Job went through. But the trials we go through are real enough. They are hard and often unfair. Nobody deserves an unwarranted enemy or a physical ailment that takes away the joy of living. But we have it, even if it is unfair. The temptation would be to pray that it all just goes away, that we could live a life free of stress and hardship. But our lives would be of little strength and substance if we lived it under those terms. Instead we should pray for the strength to endure. We should pray for the courage to withstand the trial knowing that we could come out on the other side victorious. Maybe a little scarred but still victorious.

Don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom. –Jim Rohn