How Do We Make Each Other Strong?

Strong is such a curious, multi-faceted word. A strong structure can weather the storm, withstand attack, or endure earthquakes. Strong people can also endure, withstand, or weather. Strength can be physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. We speak of strength of character in facing struggles or temptation. One might be strong in her faith or strong enough to lift her three children simultaneously.

A team must be strong to win and a country must be strong to endure the tests of time. High performing companies post strong earnings and a strong economy suggests prosperity. We often find strength in numbers and strong polling indicates a message that is being well received. In a tough, brutal world, we may believe that only the strong survive. Getting tough things done requires a strong resolve, especially with strong headwinds. We always prefer to see our horse make a strong showing.

With the Superbowl now behind us and basketball tournaments on their way, much of our nation is primed for his or her team. How strong will they be down the stretch? Do they have the strength to go the distance? For those of us leading our own teams, we wonder how to strengthen them individually and the collectively. For those of us leading or supporting families, we may also be wondering how to strengthen the family unit. For those of us in healthcare, we may be trying to figure out how to strengthen the health of those under our care. Getting stronger seems to be important in so many facets of our lives.

Curiously, my original title for this post was “How do we help each other flourish?” but the AI title judge determined that it wouldn’t resonate very strongly with readers. I guess the notion of “strength” is a big deal for us.

Looking a bit more closely, it makes complete sense. Human flourishing demands balanced strength in the critical facets of our lives. The golden mean of a joyful existence might be defined as the beautiful place of equilibrium that often eludes our physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional selves. A place where our strength holds our center intact in the face of all that disrupts the balance. Striving for that golden, joyful, mean is the journey, and the adventure, of a lifetime.

Our hyper self-obsessed culture offers plenty of guides promising to get you there…wherever there might truly be. The better you. The tougher you. The ideal you. The stronger you. Go ahead and work on the “you” you want to be. Strive to be better. Work to get stronger. The problem with most approaches to such self-improvement is that they are akin to the latest diet fad which fixates on one set of bad foods or bad behaviors that make us unhealthy. We ultimately find that fixating on any one area only creates imbalance in others. It’s not bad to want to improve oneself, to make yourself stronger. But first ask, “Stronger for what?”

Therein lies the challenge. The answer tends to be “for myself.” I want to be the best me, for myself. I want to be a better ______, for myself. I want to be stronger…so that I can be happier, more prosperous, more attractive, more funny, more, more, more. Me, me, me.

If we were to ask ourselves the question, “How can I be stronger for others?” Our answer might begin with another question, “How do I make others stronger?” Think about it for a moment. If we changed our focus from our self and on to the other for a few minutes, what might happen? I’m not talking about “fixing” the other. That is a dead end. What are things we can do to strengthen another person?

  • Limitations – what? Yes, limitations. Clear boundaries, discipline, resistance, and positively challenging the other will strengthen them. No one can thrive in absolute freedom – our own wills crumble without some help staying within healthy swim lanes. Discipline for children is a strengthening gift, laws for adults are necessary for a strong foundation.
  • Expectations – accountability is a powerful strengthening agent. Expecting something from someone is a gift. It says “you are capable, you have the ability, you are strong enough.” It also says “I think highly enough of you and your gifts to actually expect something from you.”
  • Empowerment – providing the tools and resources to do what needs to be done also bolster strength. Whether you are working to strengthen a child, an employee, or a love, helping them along with the proper physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional, resources is powerful.
  • Opportunity – there is nothing like possibility to strengthen another human being. Motivation is sends strength coursing through limbs and will, reinforcing foundational character and helping point ones eyes out from to self to a larger something else.
  • Encouragement – like a direct injection of hope, encouragement may be the most powerful lever we have for helping someone else flourish. There are so many pathways to encourage another: physically by giving a hand, emotionally by listening, mentally by asking the question, and spiritually by demonstrating.

But what about me? Yeah, it’s tough not to ask that question. Even with the best intentions, we still come back to ourselves. That’s ok, strengthening the other in the self-giving that occurs in the list above will make you stronger. Way stronger. Every effort yields more for self through the very act of self-giving. In limiting, we create our own sense of discipline. In expecting, we grow to hold ourselves accountable. In empowering, we gift ourself with the satisfaction of another’s flourishing which in turn helps us to flourish. In offering opportunity or pointing out possibility, we are opening our own eyes to the wondrous world around us. In encouraging, we rekindle hope into a fire that ignites all the full flames in our own life.

Still feel the need to focus on your self to get stronger? A friend shared the list below and I believe it is a powerful way to strengthen others outwardly while strengthening oneself inwardly:

  1. Mortify your will through the practice of obedience. Cheerful service is a great strengthener of humility.
  2. Attend especially to the tasks you don’t like doing. Doing stuff you don’t like to do fortifies self-discipline.
  3. Embrace annoyances. My friend likes to say “you spot it, you got.” That sounds like a great place for self-reflection.
  4. Impose a strict watch on your tongue. Yeah, I know.
  5. Check impulsive actions. Asking “Do I really need to do this?” is a great place to start.

In 1931, William Danforth wrote: “Our most valuable possessions are those which can be shared without lessening-those which, when shared, multiply. Our least valuable possessions, on the other hand, are those which, when divided, are diminished.” We truly do increase our strength when we help someone else get stronger. It’s a strong point made stronger by not pointing it at ourself.

Showing 3 comments
  • Trish+Berry

    Your blogs are as motivating as the ones I listen to on Hallow!

  • Jarilyn Berry

    As always, relevant in all facets of life but but per my journey back in management after time off with the kids this has given me some great tools on my journey into a new way of leading

  • Jarilyn Berry

    Sorry I got cut off in my last comment and it accidentally posted before I was finished!

    Just wanted to say this is post has some great tools that I will reflect on daily in my work!! Thank you for sharing.

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