Tom Stangl

What’s the definition of someone who is strong? Physical strength? Courage? Ability to persevere?

I think many of us, even in our divided and polarized times, could agree on each of those measures of strength. I think just about every hero in a story, myth, legend, novel or film have many of these attributes.

What about patience, tolerance and kindness? Does a “strong” person need to be patient? If you are strong, you can simply push on through, no need to show tolerance and kindness, right? In fact, displaying any of these things might have the opposite effect. You could very well be weak if you are patient, tolerant or, heaven forbid….kind.

I’d like to make the case that being kind, patient and tolerant is the ultimate expression of strength.

Like you, I read stories about the latest shooting. Someone was upset with others about something and chose to end the argument with gunfire. The shooter is strong because they use a gun, knife or club, right?

I would argue they are weak because they have not been loved. It is very easy now to perceive a slight, jump to a conclusion and find people who will reinforce your feeling. All we need to do is to tune in to cable news. Mad at conservatives? There’s a network for that. Hate those liberals? Change the channel, there’s a place for you. If the talking heads on TV aren’t enough reinforcement, there’s always the Internet and social media, where an algorithm will feed you all you care to see, and more.

These echo chambers make money delivering eyes to their advertisers. There’s no clear delineation of what is news and what is opinion, further blurring the line of reality. If you have an ax to grind, there’s a place for you, it’s not hard to find.

What’s harder to find is a dialog, common courtesy, an apology or acknowledgement that words or actions have caused harm. In a functioning world, people can disagree and still get along. It is not a sign of weakness to admit you are wrong, it’s the ultimate in strength, in my opinion.

It’s clear to me that what we are doing as a society isn’t working. Technological advances have given us new and instantaneous ways to be cruel. We can go from zero to 11 on the snarky scale, safely ensconced behind our screens and keyboards. Just hit “enter” and you can demolish anyone.

But can we be strong enough to be kind? Can we find a way to interact with each other so we aren’t the sole topic of the discussion? Can we form bonds with people we don’t like? People who aren’t like ourselves?

If we can find the courage to do this sincerely, we might be able to stop the cancer on our society that is on track to bring us all to oblivion.

Our faith demands this of us. Our families will benefit from unconditional love. Our communities will become true communities when we find a way to look beyond our own self interests.

These are lofty, but I believe obtainable goals. It won’t happen overnight, but I can guarantee you that you will feel better as a person when you choose to be kind.

And you will know how strong you are as a human being.

As always, I welcome your comments. You can reach me by email at tstangl@theameryfreepress.com, telephone 715-268-8101 or write me at P.O. Box 424, Amery, WI, 54001.

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