At my mother’s funeral in 2017, two men (besides my younger brother) separately and without prompting told me she was the “strongest person” they had ever known. A third person, a woman, described mom as the “strongest woman” she had ever known. I was surprised to hear it.
I was surprised because I had not up until then given much thought to whether or not mom was a strong person. It was just a given. I no more thought about it than most of us think about breathing. Yet, even though this will seem immodest to some people, I have to concede that those people were right, and that she was indeed a strong person. To me, mom will always be proof that women can be every bit as intellectually, psychologically, and emotionally strong as the strongest men.
However, she was not strong in the way that some of us humans conceive of as ‘strength’.
Some us think being strong is close to or identical with being forceful, unyielding, or aggressive. Mom was typically none of those things except in the narrow sense that she was unyielding on her personal principals. She stuck to her core values come fire or flood. But otherwise, you could almost always get her to change her mind about something if you could convince her by rational argument that she was in the wrong and you were in the right. The key was, you had to make a logically tight argument, and then back it up with evidence. Mom valued the truth more than she valued her ego.
Mom was strong — not in the sense of being forceful, unyielding, or aggressive — but in the sense of being true to herself regardless of what pressures were now and then placed on her to compromise her core values and her sense of who she was — compromise them for “light and transient reasons”. Another way of putting it is to say she had a lot of personal integrity.
I do not believe it is my place to tell others they should be like my mother, but I would suggest that she demonstrated in how she lived her life that men do not possess a monopoly on inner strength. Moreover, to point out that fact does not strike me as in any way detracting from men. It’s just that we should not forget that both men and women can be strong people.