Our Strength is in Our Struggle
We all experience times, moments or days or longer, when we feel our strength has abandoned us. It is easy for us to forget we are stronger than we might feel or look. When we struggle to be strong our strength is in our struggle.
There are times when we feel tired or discouraged, when it feels like we have nothing to show for all our struggling. It is as if our lives are one struggle after another until we decide to quit. In those experiences it is easy to conclude we are not strong enough to continue.
Some of us act as if we each have a predetermined supply of strength and when it runs out we are finished. We might feel we did not use our strength wisely when we were young, because we believed it would last forever.
It is almost as if we believe we inherit our strength when we are born and spend it until we have no more left.
Many of us feel our strength fades as we grow older. We get tired and frustrated as our strength dissipates. It can feel like each time we struggle leaves us more worn out and less able to continue.
Each of us seems to be dealing with our own unique struggles. Some of us struggle to make a difference in the world while others struggle to make a living. We may struggle to believe we get what we deserve or to see how things can ever get better.
Some of us struggle to see ourselves as people who are worthy to live spiritual life.
People struggle with regrets about the past and fears about the future.
Whether we can see it or not, our strength is in our struggle.
Recognizing Our Strength is in Our Struggle
Many of us assume we will no longer need to struggle when we have become strong. We see strength as a goal we can achieve, a condition we can reach which will put us past the need to struggle.
It is easy for us to see struggle as something negative, an obstacle we must overcome.
I have started to see struggling as more than an uncomfortable exercise. There is a complicated, significant relationship between struggling and becoming strong.
Strength is not the point at which we do not need to struggle anymore. Struggling is, in many ways, the method which helps us become strong.
I have struggled and continue to struggle with many things in my life. In my experience, struggling does not seem to be something I can do and complete and never need to do again.
The obstacles with which I struggle never seem to be about whatever is on the surface. When I struggle with a particular habit or pattern of behavior there always seems to be something deeper involved.
My struggles are not with acting a certain way or how I do something. I struggle much more with the reasons I take an action than with the actions themselves.
There are struggles I have with behaviors based in childhood fears. I struggle because of ways I have been deeply embarrassed or ashamed.
My struggles come from the ways I have chosen to understand what people have told me. I am probably the only person who even remembers some of the experiences with which I struggle.Recognizing how my struggles strengthen me has enriched spiritual life in me.
Understanding Our Strength is in Our Struggle
One of the struggles I have is against perfectionism.
There have been times when I believed it was not worth doing something unless I could do it perfectly. It is challenging to perform at the level of perfection. Being excellent or above average is still not perfect.
Practicing perfectionism did not make me happier or my life any better. I struggle to let go of perfectionism to make life more enjoyable.
My struggle with the need to be perfect helps me recognize how our strength is in our struggle.
Struggling with perfectionism changes my relationship to it. I come to understand perfectionism’s appeal to me as well as the wily ways it weaves itself into my life.
The idea of struggling with perfectionism is not about becoming perfectly nonperfectionist. Struggling is an exercise, a practice which strengthens our abilities to struggle.
Our strength is in our struggle as our struggling helps us learn to see how we are growing and gaining strength.
Struggling is still a struggle. We work hard and need to recognize when we require rest. How can we learn to struggle more effectively, to put what we learn into practice?
Practicing Our Strength is in Our Struggle
Struggle is hard work. Part of my own struggle with perfectionism is learning when to take a break from struggling.
No matter what it is we struggle to resolve, spiritual life is not a checklist nor a set of rules. There is no minimum standard we need to meet before we can qualify.
When we feel there is no hope, when we are exhausted or ready to quit, we remember our strength is in our struggle. Our struggle is not an adversary we are trying to defeat.
The times we do not meet our own expectations give us new insights into us and our expectations. We are not failing. Our struggle helps us become stronger and wiser.
We are still struggling, but at a deeper level than before.
Each morning is a new opportunity for us to begin struggling again. We take a deep breath, take time to listen to sacred stillness, and embrace ourselves in loving struggle.
Our struggle is not against anyone else. We are not struggling to win a victory or to defeat another person. Our strength is in our struggle. We struggle to become our best selves.
Where will we recognize our strength is in our struggle today?
How will we understand our strength is in our struggle in new ways this week?
[Image by Thomas Leuthard]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and leadership coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and university professor, and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com, and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.