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On Strong Personalities And Real Strength

Strong Traits List
You do know you have a strong personality, don’t you? Megan half asked, half stated. You are intense.
I furrowed my brow. Not the first time the words were applied to moi. But I winced a little still.
I love you, but you do. 

Guilty As Charged

Don’t mind the context, only know that Megan’s comments were wrapped with love. I might even have left this topic alone, but a friend forced the issue when she used the phrase in a different way last night. It was a <whistle and head shake> “Whew, she’s a strong personality!”

It might just be semantics, but to these ears there’s a world of difference between being strong and having a strong personality.

I’m all about strong. In fact, a couple hours before Megan pegged me, I had inscribed a gift book to a friend. You know what I wrote inside the cover? “Be strong in the Lord,” Ephesians 6:10. Not to mention practically every other JoyPrO post is about growing stronger in faith and being strengthened by graceSpiritual strength is definitely something I seek. 

So, yes. That shoe fits. I grant that.

Strong in the Lord vs. Strong Personality

But strong personality? I wasn’t so keen on having that attached to me. Because to these ears, it smacks of character traits I don’t want to claim, like domineering  and stubborn and mulish. And you know how I feel about mules.

But I am convinced that God wants all his children to be strong, that we should all pray for our “strength of soul” to increase (Psalm 138:3), and that the call to be strong in the Lord and the strength of his might is not just for those naturally inclined. It is for all God’s children.

But “strong in the Lord” isn’t the same thing as a strong personality. So, Let a righteous man strike me; it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it. Megan’s comment was oil. I dare not be defensive. Because when it comes to criticism, we the redeemed by his blood, ought to be the least defensive people on the planet.

But I did do some web-surfing and some Word-searching.

Strong Personality Traits

The “strong personality” results first.

Online, “strong personality” turned up mostly positive traits. Which is probably not surprising at all. Because like Megan said as I promptly pulled out my phone to get the terms defined– a sign, I’m sure, of a strong personality- That must have been written by a strong personality.

This Lifehack was the first one I read and I concur- it must have been. Because these traits, for the most part, I own. The shoe fit again, and honestly, it felt pretty good. I read that strong personalities don’t often waste time whining, don’t fear risks as much as others and don’t much like small talk. Check, check, check. Especially about small talk.

Then I landed on the 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do. I liked that list, too. Traits #1 and #4, for example, are great:

1. They Don’t Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves

Mentally strong people don’t sit around feeling sorry about their circumstances or how others have treated them. Instead, they take responsibility and understand that life isn’t always easy or fair.

4. They Don’t Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control

You won’t hear a mentally strong person complaining over lost luggage or traffic jams. Instead, they focus on what they can control in their lives. They recognize that sometimes, the only thing they can control is their attitude.

The more I surfed, the more I liked Megan’s assessment. It felt more like a hug than a strike. But, honestly– as a strong personality would say– what Megan thinks of me or even what I think of myself matters very little (1 Cor. 4:3). 

What matters most is what God thinks of me.

The Word On Strength

As it turns out, God has a lot to say about that. John Rinehart sums up some of those identity-building truths here. This paragraph especially sheds light on the strength God wants his children to have:

Don’t live by your own power or understanding. No, live by my Spirit within you (Zech. 4:6Prov. 3:5)…The Spirit will guide you into all truth, help you to obey me, and empower you to do my work (John 16:713Acts 1:8Gal. 5:16).

God wants his people strong and he empowers them to be. In the span of 12 verses in Joshua, God tells them to “Be strong,” no less than four times. Why? For I am with you. And you’ll find verses like “Be strong, all you people of the land,” and “Let the weakling say, ‘I am strong,’ and “He will keep you strong to the end,” scattered throughout his Word (Hag. 2:4, Joel 3:10, 1 Cor. 1:8).

If you spend much time studying it out, you’ll see the source of all that strength.

Be strong. God is Stronger.

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 

That’s 2 Timothy 2:1. Kevin DeYoung launchea recent message on 2 Timothy 2:1-15 with those five words. His summed it up with five words this strong personality loves: Be strong. God is stronger

We are made strong because of God’s grace to us. And that grace is active. Titus 2:11-14 says it trains us to say no to ungodliness and yes to self-control, for example. But the bottom line is that the spiritually strong, those with strength of soul, are only made strong in union with the Almighty God.

Or, as Paul says in Ephesians 6:10, Be strong in the Lord and the strength of his might. That’s real strength.

Real Strength

But real strength is shown not in the power to control or dominate others by force of will or with persuasive words. Rather it’s shown in the ability to control ourselves. Spiritually strong people learn not to let negative thoughts and yo-yo emotions steer their ships.

It’s also not shown in living my way or the highway. Rather it’s prefer each others interests to your own (Philippians 2:3). Whenever I try to steam roll the show, I prove I’m not so strong. And I prove that far too often- just ask my husband, my sons, Megan.

Growing truly strong is a process. But by God’s strong grace, I am empowered to fight those dark sides of my strong personality. I can be really strong because God is stronger, and his Spirit lives in me.  

So call it strong or call it strong personality, but whatever you call it– if it’s the right strong, if it’s real strength- it is a divine gift of God.

In fact, it is God. 

The LORD is the strength of his people.

Psalm 28:8