Learning through Life

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Hampshire, United Kingdom
I love how our day-to-day life can teach us lessons to help us understand our past, challenge our today, and inspire our future. We can learn through experiences, situations, conversations, songs, books, nature ... the list is endless! Live with eyes ready to see, ears ready to hear and a heart ready to be touched.

Friday, 16 March 2012

The one with the Strong Woman

Following a few rant-like conversations on Twitter I was asked to write a guest post on 'Strong Women'.   The original post can be found over at James Prescott's blog here.  Why don't you pop on over and read some of his posts and say hi?  You can also hear an audio version of the post on Partakers  (March 10th 2012)

Strong Women

‘She’s a very strong woman!

Last week, this statement cropped up in three separate conversations regarding different women.  Strong women.  And each time - I cringed.
I used to be a ‘strong’ woman.
I lifted weights at the gym regularly, practiced Judo weekly, and had a pretty good success rate with arm wrestling. 
There's nothing wrong with being a strong woman. 

But, this wasn’t what they meant, was it?

No, the focus of their strength had nothing to do with their muscles, but their character. 

What is a strong character?

Therefore, a strong character can simply be defined as someone with the ability to respond with strength in all circumstances.  To remain constant and strong in a world crazed with uncertainty, inconsistency, and irrationality.  A strong character is needed if we are to effectively navigate life's experiences. 

If this is the understanding of a strong character, then why does the phrase so often get spat out with disdain and caution when specifically referring to women?

A strong woman?

The term 'strong' when referring to the character of a woman, often carries quite a distinct interpretation.


But only of a woman. 

Very rarely does the phrase get used when describing a man.  And if it does, then it is usually referred to as a positive character trait. 

Is strength in a man a virtue, but strength in a woman a vice?

Is it good that a man displays strength, but a woman conceals it?

Is this what God ordained?  Did he create men to have strong character and women to be weak?  Can we read only of strong male characters in the Bible?

What of Ruth?  A woman of 'chayil' - (power, strength, resources, army, effective) 
What of Deborah?  The prophetess and judge who had to know her own (or God's) mind and speak it.

What of Mary?  Who chose to go against the cultural norms of the day, and engage in something she (rightly) saw as more important.

And what of Jael?  Who took matters into her own hands, confidently driving a tent peg through the head of an enemy.  

And Biblical women weren't strong? 

Shouldn't all Christians, whether male or female, aspire to have a strong character?  A character that allows them to follow the will of God, speak on his behalf, and love and forgive in a culture that exemplifies the opposite?

Shouldn’t all Christians, whether male or female, demonstrate a strength of character that comes from knowing who we were created to be?

Shouldn't all Christians, whether male or female, be encouraged to speak up, and not shut up?

Shouldn't all Christians, whether male or female, be encouraged to stand up for what is right?

Shouldn’t a strong character in all Christians be celebrated and not shunned or frowned upon – regardless of gender? 

Yes, even a strong woman.

And if the idea of this makes you feel uncomfortable, perhaps you ought to ask yourself why.


  1. Amen. I am blessed to come from a tradition where "strong women" are more welcomed than some, but even so, there remains a significant tendency to pigeon-hole... strength comes in so many forms. Recognizing this could go a long way toward helping each of us use our spiritual gifts to the fullest, male or female. (After all, the best "kitchen general" in our congregation is a guy!) Thanks for writing.

  2. Great post Jo: you're right: strength is not always seen as a feminine characteristic - yet Scary Proverbs 31 Woman (often presented as the ideal of femininity), is described as being clothed in dignity and strength (v25).


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