Boston Strong: A more accurate kind of "strong"

While listening to NPR this morning I heard a sobering piece about Boston, just one month after the bombing malfeasance. Three people died-which is obviously three too many-but I had forgotten about the many survivors who had hadn’t lost life, but had lost limbs. For them, the physical wounds only represent the surface of their struggles to get life back to “normal.” From learning how to walk again to coping with a life that will never be the same, their work has only just begun. 

Boston Strong T-shirts are selling at a decent clip up there as this mantra has gripped the area, an area known for its resiliency. According to this T-shirt, Texas isn’t the only place that says, “Don’t mess with us.” I can see why they are selling well. I might even buy one if I were a Bostonian. And I get the attitude for the many folks who were indirectly impacted. And I don’t dismiss it totally.  

But could this attitude be thoughtfully critiqued, particularly in regards to how it might affect those directly impacted. It is different to know someone injured than to actually be the one who was injured. Or to be the family, friend, doctor, rehabilitation worker who has to walk with them through the process. Not everyone thinks Boston Strong, with its connotations, is necessarily the right road to take.

According to this NPR piece, count professional trauma counselors in this group. One commented to the effect that “It all depends upon what you mean by ‘strong.'” For many doing battle with a new lifestyle, is not something you can say after a month, “Come one, now get up, get moving, let’s get this thing going! After all, we are Boston and we are strong!” Many folks emotionally are simply not ready for this. Whether it be grieving, forgiveness, bitterness, or a range of many other emotions, processing this tragedy will take time for those who have been directly impacted by it. 

Strong? Well, not how we usually use the word strong. But common grace wisdom affirms what the bible has already spoken about humanity in times of grief and desperation. We have a book in the bible that is called Lamentations, which is written in response to God exiling His people, bringing upon them a great calamity (destruction of Temple, death, and deportation). Those are bad “d” words. Sorrow may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning, as the Psalmist encourages us (Psalm 30:5). But lets remember, this is poetry, not prose. It is not science. Joy doesn’t return right away; it doesn’t literally return overnight.

This trauma counselor was really on to something. Strong can’t be “I’m ready to fight and take on the world right now, because no one can take that from me.”

What does “strong” look like? For Paul, “strong” looked like admitting that he was weak and even boasting in his weakness, insults, and persecutions (II Cor 12:8-10). In fact, when he was weak, at that point in time, he declared he was at is his “strongest.” It also looked like admitting his need for people to minister to him (Phil 2) and that he really needed people to pray for his boldness (Eph 6:19-20).  In the Sermon on the Mount, “strong” looks like “poor in Spirit” which means spiritually broken and needy before God. Meekness means letting others defend you. All of the above require much more power than bucking up or pridefully sucking it up, so doesn’t that imply this is the “stronger” route? Couldn’t we ascribe strength to these such attitudes and postures, because plainly speaking, they actually take more “strength?”

I’m all for Boston Strong if it is this kind of strong. Even secular grief counselors would agree with me. At least in part.

One thought on “Boston Strong: A more accurate kind of "strong"

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