I was reading a thread on my favorite young adult cancer site and I came across a friend discussing how her heart is broken. Cancer treatments have left her infertile. It is a fact that most people outside of the cancer community don’t think about. If your cancer is hormone driven, or you receive chemo, or radiation or many other treatments, you chances of having a healthy child after cancer are significantly diminished. I was fortunate enough to have three girls before my diagnosis, but many young adults are not so fortunate. On the thread, I read stories of other men and women who will never have the opportunity to be a parent and I was deeply saddened by their loss. Simultaneously, I became aware that as a stage four cancer patient, my three girls may one day find themselves without a mother.
So on one end of the spectrum are a large number of young women unable to have children because of cancer and on the other, there are children who will one day be motherless because of cancer. While embracing her weakness, these women can look beyond herself to find that she holds an answer someone else is searching for.
It is often through our tears that we discover hope. In our deepest hurt, the burden of our soul, there is an answer. In order to find the answer, though, we must open ourselves and our hurt to the world around us.
In order to find a solution, one woman must be willing to embrace a child that is not her own while another must allow the kindness of a stranger enter her heart and her home. Both women must relinquish control of what they cannot control.
It is in beautiful moments of realization like this, that I remember life is much more about our weakness than our strength, yet we live as if the opposite were true. In weakness, we discover who we are. In weakness we can share, that true essence of our self. In weakness we can truly experience kindness and love.
Strength on the other hand, is nothing. Individual strength results in isolation. Strength for the sake of independence or stature, personal satisfaction or bragging rights does not lead to the abundant life that is marketed in commercials.
In fact, if you Google quotes about “strength” you find ancient wisdom passed down from every religion and region of the world. The quotes do not talk about financial success or physical stature, instead they speak of how one only finds strength when living in community, alongside others, bonded in weakness.
We have been sold a myth that strength is valuable above all else. Why else, do we pretend that everything is ok? Why do we live in isolation, yearning for the closeness of a friend? Why is it nearly impossible to ask for help? Why do we work ourselves into anxiety attacks and heart attacks? Even when our body screams out for help, our mouth never admits a lacking of “strength.”
Strength is nothing but a lie, a lie that we have bought, and bought and bought; but the greatest product of strength is isolation.
Because of strength, each one of us sits on an island of isolation wishing for close friends and someone to help carry the load. Then in the in the house next door to you, someone else is wishing for the same thing. The person in front of you in line, the man in the cubicle across from yours, and the mom at the park are all sitting on their island of “strength” looking out at the isolation.
I would like to propose a change of perspective. Let’s make weak the new strong.
Weakness looks like a cancer survivor who cannot have children embracing a child and allowing love to flow forth from her wounds. Weakness looks like a mother with stage four cancer welcoming, a woman into the lives of her children that the children may experience love and acceptance from a new source. Weakness looks like two women looking into her own heart and seeing the greatest pain of her life. Then using this brokenness to heal the brokenness in others, and perhaps, finding herself healed along the way.
Weakness looks like an act of kindness.
Kindness is an unexpected, intentional investment in another individual with no thought of repayment. Kindness builds connection, the type that every person craves. Kindness is a cure for isolation, a bridge. Kindness eliminates individual strength. Kindness is a path toward strength, not individual strength, but instead a strength of purpose, a strength found in community, a strength with no thought of self.
To give kindness requires the giving of time, or money, or emotion with no guarantee of personal gain. Therefore, kindness weakens the individual but this sacrifice of the individual results in a strengthening of community.
The role of strength and weakness is a paradox. Our constant pursuit of individual strength has in fact left us weak as individuals and as a community. Yet a willingness to embrace our own weaknesses enables us to be fortified by the kindness of others and able to build strong communities. It is in weakness that we can begin understanding the power kindness possesses.
Therefore, I urge us to contemplate the possibility that the pursuit of individual strength is not best, instead let us embrace the pursuit of kindness.