The Wisdom of Aphiēmi and “True Strength”

True strength is nothing to do with how things appear on the surface. It’s all about what lies beneath and within. What can we learn about strength from the rather intriguing word, Aphiēmi?

This was first published in January 2020.

Gentle rebellion is an act of strength. It is demonstrated by the courage to go against the grain and do what others dare not. Doing the right thing, not the easy thing.

Strength is the act of growing deeper when the prevailing message is ‘aim higher’. It’s being gentle when the world is hostile. It’s living with compassion when everyone else is dismissive, disassociated, and uncaring. And it’s to show kindness in exchange for nothing, when the world tells you that everything we do is some kind of a transaction.

Doing The Right Thing

It often takes great strength to do the right thing. Because the right thing is often the hard thing. When it comes to defining strength for you as an individual, your right and hard thing might be the easy thing for someone else. And the thing you find easy, might be the most difficult thing for them.

The word, Aphiēmi is the Greek route for both ‘forgiveness‘ and ‘abandon‘ in old biblical texts. It is also translated as both ‘divorce‘ and ‘yield‘. I find this a fascinating thing to consider, because it feeds into the notion that strength for one person is weakness for another. And that the ‘right thing to do’, depends entirely on our own personal situation.

These translations are also completely active. They require a conscious choice to DO something, rather than sitting back and being passive. Even the idea of ‘yielding’ becomes an action (perhaps going against a natural inclination to dominate or inflict one’s own will).

The Flexible Truth of Aphiēmi

This truth can set us free. It is the space between where we are and where we believe we need to get to. The impossible destination of perfection, wholeness, or completeness.

The liminal gap between all or nothing is where we are released to live life in all its messy beauty. This space is where we find fragments of meaning and connection.

It sounds abstract, I know. But hopefully, we can find some practical ways to explore this idea.

Aphiēmi (True Strength) might be:

  • learning to ‘yield’ when all you want to do is get your own way.
  • learning to ‘pardon’, when all you want to do is hold a grudge.
  • learning to ‘tolerate’ when you don’t like or understand the perspective of another person.
  • learning to ‘permit’ when you want to clamp down and eradicate.
  • learning to ‘divorce’ when you want to keep trying the same thing with the hope it will miraculously change.
  • learning to ‘abandon’ when you are desperate to stay, no matter the cost to your health.
  • learning to ‘forgive’, when you want to punish.
  • learning to let go when you always hold on, and learning to hold on when you always let go

Aphiēmi responds to the need in front of us. It shows us where we might need to let go and what we need to hold with more steadfastness. I love the flexibility of this word.

What speaks to you in this list?

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