Photo Credit: Quotir, Winnie the Pooh
OK…who hasn’t heard this encouragement? “You’re stronger than you think.” I have never cared for it. Why? Because it pushes the weary soul, doing all we can to stay afloat already, to “just keep swimming”.
Not that any of us wants to quit whatever we’re about…but…is there a truer truth?
The “stronger than you think” quote has been attributed to A. A. Milne, author of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. Written by and published in the 1920s. This was a time post-World War I and prior to The Great Depression and World War II. The expression of “pull yourself up by your boot straps” and the mentality of self-reliance was fueled in those days, in literature and culture. It continues today.
[Now, you should know Milne did NOT write that expression. A writer at Disney must have. It is a quote from the animated film (1997) “Pooh’s Grand Adventure: the Search for Christopher Robin”. Pooh’s dear friend Christopher Robin is going away to boarding school and is trying to give Pooh, and himself, the courage for them to be apart. That message is there but not in so many words as in the Disney film.]
So…after that bubble burst, let’s return to the oft-quoted “stronger than you think” encouragement we find everywhere. It seems to speak to our culture…across generations.
Self-reliance. Work harder. Work smarter. We can do better. Sigh…
When we are told by a friend or family member, or even a social media stranger, that we’re stronger than we think, we are not being encouraged to lean on community…or God. We are given the message that somewhere inside ourselves, alone, without others, we can tap into more strength than we are feeling at the moment.
Is that really encouragement? I know we mean well…but do we really want to offer up Disney verbiage to a real struggle?
When I’ve gone about as far as I can go, can I slog out more, just with my own “main strength and awkwardness”? Maybe. At what cost and to what gain?
I got a phone call earlier today from a mom needing an understanding ear on a hard struggle involving her young son. She’s a terrific mom. Yet…she’d come to the end of her rope on this one. She sounded on Empty. Did it help that we talked? I think so…and definitely it helped to pray afterwards. She will find the way to help her son. She has a way forward even if she doesn’t see it clearly yet. Through her own resolve and experience. Through deep community. Through an enduring faith in a wise and loving God.
Photo Credit: Heartlight
The Apostle Paul speaks so eloquently and practically on this issue of our weakness and God’s strength. In fact, when we come to the end of ourselves, we find God’s strength perfect in our weakness. It’s both a hard truth and great comfort. We don’t like the experience of coming to the end of ourselves. Nor do we like to see our friends and family moving so close to that reality. For this reason, we encourage those we love to dig deeper.
Photo Credit: Heartlight
You know I love words…and I squeeze as much good out of them as I can. The Pooh video clip above and its messages of the richness of relationship do have meaning for us. Part of that meaning is how sustaining relationships can be even with we are apart from each other. However, the best part of relationships and how much stronger they make us comes from the moment-by-moment reach of them in the present. When we are there for each other (and pray for each other) we become stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks.
When we seek to encourage with words like “You’re stronger than you think”, your heart will be heard. Lean in with those words…and pray for that one in the struggle.
Monday Morning Moment – That Thing Does Doesn’t Need to Be Said – and If It Does – Deb Mills [Remember the quote from the Disney film Bambi? “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” That is actually part of my family’s lexicon – so Disney does have wisdom sayings in its film library. 🙂
[Mandisa sings about how hard things make us stronger BUT she says that in the face of God being right there with us – holding us through whatever comes. We can rest in Him…and each other.]
11 Reasons Why You’re Stronger Than You Think – Coaching-Online – this is actually a good article on the argument of “you’re stronger than you think”…but, there is a truer truth.
If you can’t get enough of Pooh – this is a sweet film: