THE RIGHT USE OF STRENGTH
All strength - spiritual, mental & physical - is of and from God. It is through the awareness of our relationship with God that we come to understand the right use of strength and become recipients of God's gifts of joy and peace. Strength is a necessary ingredient in transforming our lives.
STRENGTH IS REQUIRED ON MANY LEVELS
Strength is required on many levels: In Judges 16:6 Delilah, having been offered eleven hundred pieces of silver, asks Samson "...Please tell me what makes your strength so great, ..."a
On the spiritual plane, strength makes persistence possible in prayers, as we let go and let God. It enables us to continue declaring the truth when appearances are discouraging. Strength is that power essential to the development of all our other Powers. If we don't have spiritual strength, our other powers are useless.
On the mental plane, strength is that quality that makes it possible for us to follow through on decisions, to accomplish goals, to establish purpose, to hold firm to commitments, to be steadfast to principles in daily living. If you don't have mental strength, all your cleverness will amount to nothing.
On the physical plane, when we think of strength, we most often think of force, pressure, and exertion. We readily relate to the ability to engineer change through strength and force derived from our authority.
MISUSE OF STRENGTH
But there is also a misuse of strength: Judges 16:9 Samson lied to Delilah ".... So, the secret of his strength was not known."b
We misuse our strength by mentally and physically fighting or resisting our environment - people, conditions and situations.
Emotions of anger, fear, jealousy, distrust, envy and hatred are often expressed in such statements as:
"I'll fight fire with fire."
"She doesn't know with whom she's dealing, but I'll show her."
"I'll fix him!"
"I can't stand her."
STEPS IN RIGHT USE OF STRENGTH
But let's look at the steps in right use of strength: Isaiah 30:15 "For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. ..."c
Let's look at the first step: Nonresistance: Nonresistance is a very positive quality. It is another way of saying that you are in control of your own thinking and feeling. Self-discipline is essential in the nonresistant use of strength, for then your actions are based on what you decide to do and in being what you decide to be. As your strength is directed and guided from your true self, you are poised, calm and serene. Nonresistance is a builder of strength.
And then there's the second step: Relaxation: The art of relaxation in approaching tasks, assignments and duties eliminates stress and tension. Taking "breaks" from a difficult task increases productivity. It has been proven in athletics that the practice of relaxation techniques creates greater endurance.
A relaxation technique begins by speaking to each part of your body and instructing it to relax. Then speak to your mind, to quiet the rush of thoughts: "I am relaxed."
The next step is Direction: As we consistently practice the use of strength in a nonresistant and relaxed way and as we continue a regular prayer practice, our strength is increased. Use your energy and strength in ways that encourage fairness, acceptance, positive thought, and right action.
And the last step is The Resulting Experience: The increase in strength that we experience in our physical bodies manifests as energy, vigor and vitality. The manifestation in our minds is as increased stableness, steadfastness of purpose and decisions. In our spiritual lives we experience increased persistence in prayer and meditation. Strength is not something with us at designated times. Rather, it permeates our whole being. It is a part of us and is experienced and demonstrated in all phases of our lives.
Some affirmations for strength are:
"God is my strength, and I am strong in God."
"I am receptive to God's strength, and I receive it abundantly to do the work that I need to do.
ANATOMY OF THE SPIRIT
Using Caroline Myss's material on the Anatomy of the Spirit I would think that the power of STRENGTH is associated with the third chakra, which is about lessons related to love, forgiveness, and compassion. This would tie in with the sacrament of Confirmation, which is to receive or bestow an expression of grace that enhances one's individuality and self-esteem. And the sefirot of Hod and Nezah which is the energy of the majesty of God and the energy of the endurance of God. The three of these dovetail into the sacred truth, "Honor Oneself."
The archetypal forces at this level direct us to develop self-esteem and self-respect. This chakra contains our "survival intuition," our sense that protects us when we are in physical danger and alerts us to the negative energy and actions of other people. We violate this energy when we disregard our gut instincts.
The symbolic meaning of the sacrament of Confirmation is the acceptance of responsibility for the quality of person we become. Part of the process of becoming conscious of ourselves is a "coming of age" ceremony. The spirit requires such an experience or ceremony as a marker for emergence into adulthood; when this marker is absent, we manifest a lack of psychological strength. We seem to have a continual need for the approval of other people and an inability to appreciate ourselves.
The symbolic meaning of the sefirah of Nezah is endurance - the power to maintain strength and stamina beyond the capacity of the physical body alone. This power awakens when we accept our life as it is. We lose this power when we focus on what is missing from life, or when we see life as empty and meaningless and need to learn to accept our personal responsibility for having created it. The symbolic meaning of the sefirah of Hod is majesty or integrity, an energy that allows us to transcend the limitations of self and awaken our spiritual connection with Divine authority. The energy of Hod is enhanced by developing an attitude of appreciation and gratitude for all we have, and for the gift of life itself.d
QUESTIONS FOR SELF-EXAMINATION
So, if you are serious about developing your power of strength - if you really want to be strong spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically - then explore these 10 questions:
1. Do you like yourself? If not, what don't you like about yourself, and why? Are you actively working to change the things about yourself that you don't like?
2. Are you honest? Do you sometimes misrepresent the truth? If so, why?
3. Are you critical of others? Do you need to blame others as a way of protecting yourself?
4. Are you able to admit it when you are wrong? Are you open to feedback from other people about yourself?
5. Do you need the approval of others? If so, why?
6. Do you consider yourself strong or weak? Are you afraid of taking care of yourself?
7. Have you ever allowed yourself to be in a relationship with a person you didn't really love, but it seemed better than being alone?
8. Do you respect yourself? Can you decide to make changes in your lifestyle and then stick to your commitment?
9. Are you afraid of responsibility? Or do you feel responsible for everything and everyone?
10. Are you continually wishing your life were different? If so, are you doing anything to change it, or have you resigned yourself to your situation?
The first, second and third chakras are our power base in the world, external power. The first chakra resonates to group or tribal power, the second chakra resonates to the flow of power between the self and others, and the third chakra relates to our personal power or strength in relation to the external world.
The symbolic meaning of Nezah and Hod represent the qualities we need in order to "stand up" as individuals.
These archetypal symbols have the spiritual goal of helping us to mature in our self-understanding - the relationship we have with ourselves, and how we stand on our own and take care of ourselves. We all must face an experience that reveals to us our own internal strengths and weaknesses as separate from the influence of our elders. We are compelled to create an identity apart from our tribal self.
How we feel about ourselves, whether we respect ourselves, determines the quality of our life, our capacity to succeed in business, relationships, healing, and intuitive skills. Self-acceptance is the most crucial spiritual challenge we face. If we do not like ourselves, we will be incapable of making healthy decisions. Instead, we will direct all our personal power into the hands of someone else - someone whom we want to impress, or someone before whom we think we must weaken ourselves to gain physical security. People who have low self-esteem attract relationships that reinforce this weakness.
No one is born with healthy self-esteem. We must earn this quality in the process of living, as we face our challenges one at a time.
We need to consciously choose spirit over the illusions of physical circumstances. With each choice we make, we either become more involved in the illusory physical world, or we invest energy into the power of spirit. Each time we choose to enhance our internal power and strength, we limit the authority of the physical world over our lives, bodies, health, minds, and spirits. From an energy point of view, every choice that enhances our spirits strengthens our energy field; and the stronger our energy field, the fewer our connections to negative people and experiences.
If a person suffers from low self-esteem, she cannot act on her intuitive impulses because her fear of failure is too intense. Intuition, like all meditative disciplines, can be enormously effective if, and only if, one has the courage and personal power to follow through on the guidance it provides. Guidance requires action, but it does not guarantee safety. While we measure our own success in terms of our personal comfort and security, the universe measures our success by how much we have learned. So long as we use comfort and security as our criteria of success, we will fear our own intuitive guidance because by its very nature it directs us into new cycles of learning that are sometimes uncomfortable.
Belief in oneself is required for healing. But faith is tied into self-esteem and personal power and strength, because low self-esteem reflects our lack of faith in ourselves as well as in the powers of the unseen world.
The symbolic meaning of the sacrament of Confirmation is that we become "alive" inside by becoming internally empowered. Our strength comes from within. 1 Chronicles 28:20 "..."Be strong and of good courage, ... Do not be afraid or dismayed; for the Lord God, ..., is with you. ..."e
Self-esteem and conscious personal power sometimes develop at a memorable point in life that signifies an initiation into spiritual adulthood. Perhaps, in a sudden flash of insight, you saw how you could accomplish a task that had been previously overwhelming. Perhaps you saw yourself as powerful and realized that you could accomplish goals of all sorts, from physical fitness to financial success.
Developing the confidence to pursue goals is one way that personal power becomes an agent of personal change. At the same time an equally impressive level of change can occur within a person's spiritual or symbolic life. Becoming internally empowered shifts a person's center of gravity from external to internal - a mark of spiritual passage.
I would like to close with a poem by Hannah More Kohaus called I Am Stronger Than My Fears.
I am stronger than my fears,
I am wiser than my years,
I am gladder than my tears;
For I am God's image.
I am better than my deeds,
I am holier than my creeds,
I am wealthier than my needs;
For I am God's image.
God, whose image thus I bear
And whose likeness I shall share,
All God's glory will declare
Through the "I": God's image.
dCaroline Myss Anatomy of the Spirit
e1 Chronicles 28:20