Being strong is not easy. Strength of body, mind, and spirit is only developed through experiencing some level of hardship or strain that we often find ourselves voluntarily placing ourselves under. Hardship, or tension both literally and figuratively, leads to adaptation that strengthens us. And there is one display of true strength in body, mind, and spirit that I find to be one of the one of the greatest: restraint.
I don't often like drawing large or odd comparisons from truly difficult times to the ones we create by choice in our daily lives. The football teams screaming and announcing they are "going to war" is a disservice to those who actually step on the battlefield in an engagement of actual war with the very real consequence of losing their life. Lives are not won or lost on football fields, and I do my best to avoid making these comparisons.
However, there are lessons to be drawn from individuals and situations far harder than our own that we can take inspiration from. While it does not matter your opinion of the existence of God, it would not be a far stretch to say that there are lessons to be learned from the life of Jesus (and as a man of faith, I'll still do my best to present an unbiased perspective), as religions of all kinds have a vast influence on our world as a whole.
There is something that crossed my mind recently that stuck out to me in the story of the crucifixion of Jesus, and that is the amount of power of restraint he displayed while being nailed to a cross. If you've read or been exposed to any amount of religious studies, you've likely heard discussions or depictions of the Biblical accounts of Jesus, mainly in the Gospels found in the New Testament. Stories that recall miracles being performed such as calming storms, multiplying a family sized meal to feed thousands, and raising multiple people from the dead.
But one of the great lessons from Jesus doesn't come from what He did do, but from what He didn't.
If you read the accounts of Jesus and the displays of power and strength he demonstrated, it would be undeniable that there would have been power to save himself from the pretty gruesome death he suffered. So why didn't he? Perhaps the untold lesson here is the strength of restraint. To choose hardship and suffering for the greater good.
The story of Jesus' death is that his life is offered as a sacrifice in compensation for the souls of humanity. That Jesus died so that man could live eternally. In doing so, there was an excruciating amount of earthly pain and suffering that would have to be endured. Physical pain of wounds, and emotional pain of feeling abandoned, are all present in the narrative of Jesus' crucifixion. Yet he restrained himself from displaying his power and sparing his own life. The end goal and its benefits were far greater than the pain that was being suffered. So he chose to die that death and endure that suffering, even under the mockery of those whose who sentenced him, and whom he could have easily overpowered.
Now, none of us will ever be hung on a cross in such a brutal fashion, nor do we possess the power that would have been on display in any of the accounts of Jesus. But we can learn from the restraint, and the choice to not quit. We can learn from his choice to not relieve himself of suffering.
In our culture, the move towards efficiency and ease is ever speeding up. Everything from autonomous vehicles, to cell phones, to the simple office chair are examples of our drive towards comfort and efficiency. But if we are to get stronger, we must choose to restrain ourselves from partaking in the life of constant ease. We must choose to partake in the struggle and suffering of working towards worthwhile goals.
It is far easier to quit. We do it all the time, even when the goal is notably a worthwhile one. We give up, even when doing so may negatively impact the long term of our future. We fail to demonstrate restraint, because we choose ease.
Especially when we are choosing a pursuit of physical health and strength, we have to choose to stay in the fight. To choose discomfort, and some small sense of suffering. There is no getting strong without the presence of tension; of some physical hardship. You don't build stronger legs by sitting down, but by standing up. You must put in time, and learn to push through the discomfort. Even when it is countercultural and the world tells you to "stop before you hurt yourself."
Indeed, we have to the power and ability to quit at any moment. To stop a rep shy, or take weight off the bar. But what we gain in a momentary display of our ability to choose comfort, we lose in future displays of strength.
To build physical strength, we must build a mental and spiritual one. We must exercise the strength of restraint, and hold back the power that allows us to quit and make life easier. We must choose to reign in our desire for comfort, and hone in on what makes our life even stronger in the years that follow.