The Strong Person

This post is brought to you by Melanie’s Share Your World and Ursula’s response to it. Please take a look at their blogs. They are thoughtful, interesting and stimulating bloggers who think outside the box. 🙂

Melanie’s question is: Am I a strong person character-wise?

What does “strong” mean? To me, it means being assertive, standing up for those you love when they can’t do that for themselves, being able to think independently, having integrity.

Having defined what “strong” is though, I have to say that sometimes I have been a strong person, and at other times, I have been a weak person.

Sometimes, I’m just a sort of muddy person.

Perhaps people need to be weak in order to understand how to be strong. If you’re uncomfortable because of the choices you’re making, then maybe you need to examine them. Recognising weaknesses means that you know what strong is (or isn’t)?

Is there a little interior voice telling you to pick something else, do something else, be something else?

I’ve learned to listen to my interior voice. It hasn’t let me down yet. I have let it down lots of times though because I haven’t listened to it. Without question, I usually know the right path, but sometimes I don’t take it, and this was more evident when I was younger.

Is that an excuse? I was younger and didn’t know better, blah, blah, blah.

Well, it is and it isn’t. I had impulse control issues when I was younger and even now to some extent, but I often knew that I was making a poor choice … I just thought that I could make the outcome be different. The hubris of youth? Well, not when you’re getting up there in age …

Here in northern Canada where I work, indigenous people believe in the “capable” person, not the strong person. They find the idea of a strong person to be a western concept that leaves other qualities (and therefore many people) out. Qualities that are important and needed, but not necessarily very heroic or romantic.

Are you capable of living in the north?

It’s spherical thinking, not continuum thinking, and I believe it gets at the idea that sometimes we are strong, and sometimes we’re not. It’s the notion that we’re able to do certain things, to make contributions, but we’re not able to do all things, or heroic things.

I love the idea of “capable.” That there are many things I can do and can contribute, but that I can’t contribute everything nor should I be expected to.

I haven’t really answered Melanie’s question in any definitive sort of way, but I’ve thought about it and I’m thinking about it still.

What do you think? Are you a strong person? A capable person?

25 thoughts on “The Strong Person”

  1. Wonderful post, Lynette 🙂

    I love your perspective and the journey it’s taken.

    Am I “capable”?

    I am very capable of and at making mistakes, and in some ways that is my contribution, especially if I learn from those mistakes and what I learned is helpful to others in some manner.

    Would I be strong or capable enough to live in the Northern Canada? If I had to then I’d adapt, relying on the locals for guidance. But your stories of walking to work during Winter… I’d have to be very careful with the sort of mistakes I made, I have been known to go outside during Winter wearing flip flops, luckily UK Winters are gentle compared to Canadian ones.

    1. Thank you. 🙂

      Haha! Yes – I am very capable of making mistakes too! Sometimes, painfully so, and for me, those have usually been the best kind. I really disliked being married to a narcissist, but at this point I realise that I wouldn’t change that experience. I learned many things that I needed to learn. 🙂

      I think that you would adapt to the north fairly easily. 🙂 Coming anywhere near the door would alert you to the fact that your toes are naked. In fact, walking around the house without socks might be rather chilly. 🙂 To be fair, though, you can walk around in flip flops for the better part of the winter in the Okanagan Valley. 🙂

  2. I enjoyed this post, Lynette. For me, I’d say the circumstances probably determine whether I’m strong or capable. If I need to fight for my family, I’d say I can be both. That said, if something happened to a family member or friend, like illness or death, I’m not always as strong as I’d like to be. One thing I know for sure, I’m not strong enough to handle your brutal winters! 🙂

    1. Thank you Jill. 🙂

      Hahaha. 🙂 The fact is that I’m in the “southern”part of the Northwest Territories. There’s another 1800 km (about 1100 miles) of country that runs directly north from here to the Arctic Ocean. Now that’s cold! It’s all relative though, isn’t it?

      I get a little concerned sometimes that “strong” can be used to justify all kinds of behaviour that may be questionable, but like you, I find myself a bit on the fence about the difference or maybe seeing them as sort of the same. I don’t have a good enough understanding yet of the differences that indigenous peoples see between these two characteristics.

    1. I like the idea of “capable” a lot and like that I can describe myself that way. I feel that I don’t really have a good grasp on the differences between “strong” and “capable;” I think that my understanding of the depth of difference is probably a bit superficial at this point.

  3. Thanks for sharing that. I think the idea of a “capable” person is great! In fact, you’ve now given me a term to explain the qualities of that sort of person who makes mature, grownup decisions and choices. Jim (from Writings on the Bathroom Wall – whom you may or may not know of) shared a cartoon today that dove tails right into this conversation. Calvin and Hobbs and the statement that “grownups just act like they know what they’re doing”. Well that’s true for ME anyway. Thanks also for sharing my blog and finding some interesting bits in it. Capable. Lovely concept! 🙂

    1. You are very welcome. 🙂

      Yes! 🙂 I just act like I know what I’m doing – that’s something I can relate to because I have really felt like that’s what I’ve been doing sometimes. But then there’s the whole “faking it until you make it” idea, which is what acting like you know what you’re doing leads to, or something like that. 🙂

      I like the idea of being a capable person,and I think that I am one, but I know that I don’t understand the whole concept of it from an indigenous perspective.

  4. I think we are all sometimes strong and sometimes weak. I always thought I was weak because I could never survive living without modern conveniences, or in nature, so-to-speak. I’m a city girl and couldn’t live “off the land.” If I had modern conveniences I MIGHT be able to live where you do. I prefer cold to hot, but it’s a bit TOO cold by you. 🥶

    Ursula mentioned her neighbor being strong in character. I’ve been told that I’m strong in character because, I don’t fear my emotions and face them. Yet I feel weak while I’m facing them. Plus, I never thought of facing my emotions as any big deal. It comes naturally to me, and I thought everyone did it. Facing some personal issues within myself recently, and it’s a struggle, so I feel weak, but I know these things pass.

    Thanks for the deep discussion.

    1. You are welcome. 🙂

      I am an army veteran and saw active duty; when I did survival training I was dropped off farther north than here (about 65° north latitude) 50 km (about 30 miles) in the bush of northern Ontario and had to find my way back and not get “captured.” No backpack, only a few things such as a knife, one match, a piece of tin foil, you get the idea. Interesting experience but somewhere in there I decided that after my service, I wouldn’t be doing any camping of any kind. Of course, I wound up having to do a lot of it with my son, including canoe trips out on the land. Portages, like that. Since he became an adult and joined the army himself I’ve managed to avoid ropes, canvas, cold beans and boats. 😀

      I think you would probably be just fine up here. We have all the modern conveniences including a few you might not be used to (plug-ins for your vehicle for example). 🙂

      I can be strong as well although I’m not entirely sure that I know what that means. I think I do, but then again, I can come across as being more sure than I feel. I like the idea of being capable a lot. It feels much more accessible somehow, like you can do what you can do, but it’s not expected for you to be superhuman. Something like that. I’m struggling a bit with getting a handle on it.

      1. Wow Lynette, I admire your service in the army. I would not know how to survive out there like you did. I never camp. I am definitely not strong of character in that respect.

        I didn’t know you had a son, and now he’s in the military? Very noble. God Bless you both.

        1. Thank you – much appreciated. 🙂

          I think for many people, camping is something you’re raised with (I was). The army version was a lot tougher. I haven’t camped in about 10 years now though. I’m retired from that. 😉

          My son was in the army. He’s now a paramedic/firefighter. 🙂

          1. Wonderful service from your family.

            I was raised a pampered city girl who didn’t camp. Not that we had a lot of money or anything. We simply had the comforts of a roof over our heads, plumbing, and foot in our tummies. It’s why I don’t think I’m strong. 😝

  5. I have often said, “My gut has never let me down, although I have often failed it.” Perhaps part of it was that youthful hubris you mentioned, but for me, a lot of the time, it was also self-doubt. I didn’t trust my gut enough to follow through, and it wasn’t until I realized that it had the better track record that I learned to trust it. Lots of strength and weakness there! lol
    I love the notion of capable. Capable and it’s companion/counterpart, willing! I may be capable of a thing, but not willing, and vice-versa. Yes, much better descriptors than the strong/weak paradigm. 🙂

    Love the wide, panoramic views! ❤

    1. Thank you. 🙂 That photo was taken in Wood Buffalo National Park.

      Right? I usually know but don’t listen to myself. I like the idea of adding “willing” to the capable. Lots of very capable people don’t participate in whatever it is. Our best characteristics (and worst) never operate much on their own; they always seem to act in tandem with others. Good point. 🙂

  6. I think strong and capable go hand in hand. You can make matzo with flour and water but you need baking powder to make a biscuit. And some buttermilk.
    People often have the capability to stand up to tyrants, bear up under the hardships surrounding a serious health issue or face the painful realities of a disintegrating relationship but they lack the resolve necessary to do so. This is where angry people yelling at their TV sets come from. Strong is heroic and it is romantic but that doesn’t make it less of a necessity than capability. In fact, neither strong nor capable are good for much without willing, or smart, or discerning. These are the sausage, egg and cheese on your biscuit of character.
    It reminds me of the sign in the garage where I take my car. It says: I do three kinds of work: Cheap, fast and good. You can have two.
    My friend in Calgary sent us some pics of the recent weather. Stay warm.
    Thanks for a good think.

    1. Hi Kenny, Vanessa also made the same point that “willing” is necessary in order for the recipe to work. That’s true of any of these characteristics – resolve has to be a part it. Good point. 🙂 Personally, I like the idea of being capable, but I haven’t really decided what I am. As I respond to your and others’ comments, I’m beginning to see that for me at least, it depends on the situation, and that means that I can also be weak.

  7. Yes, I like “capable.” “Assertive” too often slides into a self-serving “aggressive” instead. Speaking up to prevent abuse of the weak is important, but strength is more than noise & action. “Capable” for me encompasses things like being grounded, maintaining balance in life’s on-going chaos (there I paraphrase Leonard Cohen), having the strength to be quiet, to be simple (not simplistic), to be kind, to be gentle…

    1. Great comment – thank you. 🙂

      I’ve thought a lot about the differences between “assertive” and “aggressive,” and I agree, assertiveness can slide into aggressiveness. I like your definition a lot (and I love Leonard Cohen) especially the idea of maintaining balance and having the strength to be quiet, kind and gentle. It can be easy to fall into the less desirable aspects of aggressiveness.

  8. I became a member of Toastmasters in 2006 to become more confident in expressing my ideas, and be a better me. It helped me speak at family events like weddings and funerals when others shied away from personal tributes.
    Communication is important especially to advocate more health care and I have witnessed loved ones who didn’t advocate for themselves, and suffered.

    I like the capable label, that shows real wisdom by responding correctly to the situation.

    1. Thank you – great comment. 🙂

      Being able to advocate for our loved ones and also for ourselves is a very necessary skill that’s often overlooked, I think. Good on you for taking that on and developing your skill and confidence in that area! 🙂

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