The Key To Strength Is Flexibility
The Key to Strength…Flexibility
How do you describe strength? Most people that I know focus on things like solid rock, concrete, unshakable beliefs, bodybuilders, and tall oak trees. While these things conjure up thoughts of rigidity, I no longer look to them for strength. Strength goes beyond this and to truly persist and move forward in life, you will find that a different description of strength is necessary.
If you ask would have asked me when I was younger what exemplifies strength - rock or water - I would quickly respond that rocks are much harder than water and therefore must be stronger. Yet, over time, water breaks right through mountains of rock. The persistent stream of water smoothes the rough edges of rocks and can create valleys and rivers where rock once sat. When we consider time, it shifts our thinking from what is hard now, to what remains and persists.
Every year there seems to be a tropical storm or hurricane and pelts the coast of the United States. There always seems to be a weatherperson there to capture the images and reports on what they are experiencing.
Last year, as I watched this unfold, I realized something. The hurricane was destroying buildings and trees and debris was flying everywhere. Despite the excessive winds, the trees that were being destroyed were not the flimsy palm trees. They were somehow able to withstand the winds by being flexible. They didn’t resist the wind; they moved with the wind and allowed the wind to sway them back and forth, almost touching the ground at times. Again I was left thinking that strength, in this case, was being able to move with the wind instead of being rigid.
I recall being in college at Kent State University in a law class in 2001. The professor gave us several controversial issues and asked us to choose whether we were for or against each one. One particular issue that I had a strong opinion on was the death penalty. I felt that if the individual was capable on committing such an extreme crime then they should be punished in an extreme way.
Over the next few weeks the professor would address these issues and give us new information. Hearing that the cost to execute a prisoner was greater than the cost to keep someone in prison for life had me question my position. Still, I stuck to my original viewpoint. More and more information came and with it I slowly started to question my stance. Finally we learned that an estimated 10% of prisoners were eventually found to be innocent. DNA testing had come out and proven that the system was very flawed. This caused me to change my opinion on the death penalty.
Too often we expect our politicians to hold their stance and never falter their views. A politician that changes their position on an important issue will likely catch criticism and the voters may even feel that they cannot trust them any longer. This is ridiculous. We know more today than we did yesterday but if we are unwilling to adjust based on new information we will never truly grow.
To avoid being stuck, realize that new information may mean we were wrong. Don’t stay wrong because you are afraid to change and feel that makes you appear strong. Strength comes from being able to adjust when necessary, not sticking to a point of view.
True strength is not what we tend to think. True strength comes from being able to persist. True strength comes from being able to get up after a fall, dust yourself off, admit when we were wrong, and learn. Growth will not come from sticking to a point of view that we learn is wrong. It comes from adapting and remaining flexible throughout life. Next time you are faced with a situation, think if you are being too rigid in an attempt to be “strong.”
In order to truly gain a flexible mindset, try to find situations where you disagree with a loved one. In those instances, realize that they believe what they do for different reasons that why you feel the way you do. Instead of arguing with them, try to convince yourself that the other side is right. If you can truly see things from their side, without adding “but,” you will immediately end the disagreement and they will likely take a less rigid stance on their point of view.
It is amazing when I first did this and realized that by getting myself to actually agree with them, the fight ended immediately and they actually admitted that they were a little extreme in their point of view. Just understand that you can’t fake this to win an argument. You must actually believe that they are right and that you were wrong. If you do, the relationship will grow, your communication will improve and you will both feel better. That is now my view of strength, not keeping the relationship stuck, hurting communication and feeling like crap in order to “win” the argument.