Strength in Quotes

I recently saw a beautiful quote on Facebook about strength.  It reads, "You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have." This quote got me thinking about the words "strong" and "strength."  What do these words mean in today's world?  What do these words mean in the life of a survivor?
Let's start with the simple definition of strength.  I went to and looked up the proper definition(s) of the word strength.

  • the quality or state of being strong : capacity for exertion or endurance
  •  power to resist force
  •  power of resisting attack
  •  legal, logical, or moral force
  •  a strong attribute or inherent asset
  • degree of potency of effect or of concentration 
  • intensity of light, color, sound, or odor
  • vigor of expression
  • force as measured in numbers : effective numbers of any body or organization 
  • one regarded as embodying or affording force or firmness
  • maintenance of or a rising tendency in a price level
Strength, as you can see, has many meanings: Strength of economies, physical strength, strength of light, color or sound and strength of expression among others. The strength I am speaking of is quite different though.  It is not something that can be truly defined or qualified.  It has to do with the strength of the human spirit.
Over the last few days and weeks, in the aftermath at the Rep. Todd Akin debacle, many survivors have come out to share their stories.  I have read stories of the most unbelievable strength from remarkable women and girls. These women have seen some of the worst of humanity and have still been able to come out with the greatest outlook on life.  I have also had the privilege to talk to some victims and survivors about this horrible thread that links us all together.  While the circumstances of our experiences are different, the event itself is still the same.  We may not know each other’s names or faces; we may not even know the sound of the other’s voice, but we are bound together as a community of women, sisters if you will, who have lived through hell and have come out the other side. Our experiences have shaped who we are, but do not define who we are.  We see life through new, sometimes more skeptical eyes but we tend to come back to the same place of strength that got us through to this day.  We walk with purpose, knowing how fragile life is.  We are well versed in how all that we consider normal and comforting can be drastically altered in an instant, sometimes at the hands of someone we know, and other times at the hands of someone lurking in the shadows.  We learn to take each day a minute or hour at a time until we get our bearings, and then celebrate each graduating step with the circle of support that surround us with unconditional love and acceptance.
We, the victims and survivors of this unspeakable crime, are the true personification of this saying.  Many of us never knew how strong we were until being strong was the only choice we had.   Personally, it has taken me a long time to get to this place, but each day I see how the only things that define me are my heart, spirit, convictions and my name, Valerie, which means “strength.”