To Be Strong

While skimming through a few years old diaries in search of an anecdote about my late brother, I came across a quote that a cousin had emailed to me a week after Mark’s death. “The world is the great gymnasium where we come to make ourselves strong.”from Swami Vivekananda.

While contemplating the proverb, I remembered that I was getting dressed in the locker room of the YMCA after a workout when the crucial phone call arrived. The operating coronary surgeon at an Omaha hospital informed me of my brother’s passing after emergency open heart surgery. The surgeon told me what had happened and the types of operations his team had performed to try to save Mark’s life.

After finishing the call, my gym buddies offered their condolences and support. I left the locker room and found an empty stairwell to recoup my emotions in private. I needed to gather the strength to inform my father and sister of Mark’s passing. I do not wish this grim task upon anyone; but sooner or later, everyone will be on the giving or receiving end of a similar conversation. Later that day I scribbled a phrase in my diary, “Sometimes having to let go makes us stronger.”

To live a full life, we are called upon to endure and persevere. If we shrink away from these responsibilties, we become weak. When we accept them we gain extra strength in the doing of them–even if it takes all the mental energy reserves we have to do so.

There have been millions upon millions of people who have faced withering adversities in their lives. Those who stood up to their oppressors, be they human or natural, became strengthened and courageous. While growing out of childhood and adolescence, the turning point in realizing adulthood is when we discover the iron-core of strength within us. As we struggle through the trials, we gather strength to help us survive the pain. Some people experience this sooner and others face those trials later in life.

Although winning a contest comes as a result of strength, strength rarely comes about through victory. Our struggles through trial and error increase our strength. When we decide not to give up and push through the struggles, we gain strength. If victory also results, we can consider that as a sweet bonus. In many instances, an honest, hard-won victory can be a humbling experience. Gloating and bragging are signs of weakness and are unvirtuous.

For a great many people building inner strength is the greates challenge. Through contemplation, study, and determination, they manage to shed other people’s agendas and fantasies intended as control and manipulation. They refuse to be consumed in others’ schemes. Such people define themselves and advance along their own chosen paths. The people who devote themselves to a heartfelt cause with determination and strength are on the path to mastering themselves.

An ancient wise teacher once pointed out that a genuinely strong person does not need approval of others any more than the tiger requires the approval of its prey.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Leonardo da Vinci. “I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Contemplation, philosophy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to To Be Strong

  1. Oh gosh. It’s good that you had your gym buddies to offer some support upon receiving that phone call. That is so difficult

    • swabby429 says:

      I didn’t expect it. Someone intuited that I had just received bad news by overhearing my responses to the phone call. Their thoughtfulness was a blessing.

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