Sunday, September 19, 2010

staying strong, staying weak

there's a haitian saying kenbe fem that when translated to english means "stay strong". coming from a culture of hardship, its a saying of hope and encouragement in the face of some pretty tough odds. as eve and i ended our conversation the other night, i said to him, "kenbe fem". he looked at me strangely at first - while haitian creole has a foundation in french, it also mixes in tens, perhaps hundreds of african languages. to someone who speaks only french, creole is not understood. but eve said that in his mother tongue (bantu-fang) he knows the word fem as a strong person. so it was pretty cool to see the linguistic connection between gabon and haiti. but that's not what i want to write about today, i want to write about what it means to stay strong.

sometimes we need that kind of encouragement - we go through times in our life when we can't see the light, but we know if we keep walking, one step at a time, taking on life from one moment or day to the next, we can make it through to the other side. but there's a price with that way of living. we're surviving, getting through the day. we might shut out other possibilities, other leadings. so what if instead of staying strong, we stay weak? kenbe feb?

we don't like the idea of being weak, it leaves us vulnerable and living in fear. however, perhaps by being weak, we can admit that we need help, that we need to reach out and rely on others because none of us can do this alone. and it might also mean that we stay humble and open to something more than survival. this is what i was thinking about under the tree this morning and saw a similar analogy out in front of me.
this tension between strong and weak is similar to that between going with the flow and taking things into your own hands. you can stay in the water and go with the flow. again, sometimes we feel the need to just let go, stop forcing things, and move along with the water, where ever it may take us. but then when we do that, its not guaranteed that we'll make it to shore and we have to accept where and when we land if we do make it.

or we can take a surf board, choose a wave and take control of where we go. the outcome will likely be very different (the journey certainly will be) and we take the responsibility for where and when we land. now that does not guarantee that we won't fall off or be saved from getting caught under a wave, tossed around and held under not knowing which way is up. but when we resurface, we can try again and again.

so which is it? do we stay strong? or do we stay weak? do we go with the flow? or do we paddle out into the swell and surf? i think we need to do all four. the art of living a good life, though, is having the wisdom to know when.


  1. To add to that. I think part of being a strong person is admitting when you need help. You might be strong and push through and you might be strong and complete something you didn't want too or didn't think you could. But you also might be strong and reach out to a friend for advice without shame or embarrassment for a strong person knows that no job done well is done completely alone.

    Stay strong Chris we are all behind you ... and next to you and in front of you.

  2. I think when you stay true to yourself and have faith in life, you will find the wisdom within.