According to my mother, I came from a long line of strong women. As I grew up, I was constantly reminded of it. It was a common theme in my house to hear Mom say, “you come from a long line of strong women. Don’t let them down!”
This speech usually followed when I took the soft road rather than the rocky one with people. She felt that I being a pushover and, being the mama bear she was, she worried that I wouldn’t stand up for myself when I was on my own.
Mom did what she thought was right in my upbringing. Having grown up the last child in her family, so much younger than her brothers, there was little time or affection from her mother. Having divorced Mom’s father, her mother was a working woman who held down two or three jobs at a time, and did all she could for her family. There simply wasn’t time to relax; to be soft, kind, or pay much attention to this last child.
So Mom grew up knowing how to cook, clean, sew, get herself to school and become one of those strong women like her mother. She learned at an early age that you can’t trust most people, and that sometimes family can let you down. But, as she always said to me, it made her stronger and adapt to any situation.
The one thing she promised herself was that if she had a daughter of her own, she would lavish her with affection and give her the time she hadn’t had with her own mother. All this she did for me and more. But there was always that fear that I would be too soft to stand up for myself. So I was constantly reminded of that long line of strong women I came from.
Mom was what Dad often called a “ballsy dame.” She always ‘said it like it is.’ There was no flip-flopping with Mom; you always knew how she felt about people. There was no doubt as to where you stood with Mom.
Although I didn’t become the ‘ballsy dame’ Mom was, I found my own way of being. It took me years to realize that I could be soft but powerful, kind but firm, peaceful but not submissive. These are some of the truths I’ve embraced over the years:
- When you are kind when you could be mean or snarky, this is strength.
- When you realize your own part in an argument instead of blaming the other person, this is strength.
- When you deliberately choose kindness over knee-jerk anger, you show strength and character.
- Kindness is not weakness.
These days it seems as though everyone is on a hair-trigger; the least little thing can turn into violence. There no longer seems to be self-control or choosing not to engage; it appears many of us are devolving into the realm of ‘me first; the hell with you.’
Being nasty or rude or hateful to someone may give us temporary satisfaction, but it doesn’t last. In my life, I have said awful things to some people, and I regret this. All I can say in my own defense is that I wasn’t done growing into the woman I am now.
Do I ever get angry over stupid things? Of course I do. Do I say things I don’t mean? Yes, many times. Do I get frustrated over things I have no control over? Many times! Like everyone else, I’m human and I make mistakes.
But more and more I am trying to stop; take a breath, and ask myself if the easy rotten remark is worth it. We are all fragile inside our shells, and often react to defend a real or imagined hurt. I read the following a long time ago, and it still sticks in my mind:
“*They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
My hope each day is to keep to the high road and keep remembering that there is real strength in kindness and forgiveness. I try and fail, but sometimes I try and succeed.
*This statement has been attributed to Carol Buchner, Maya Angelou, and others. The essential insight is that a skilled communicator must be aware of the emotional valence of his or her words.
From Quote Investigator.