Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Fragile: The Hard Stuff Doesn't Always Make Us Stronger, It Can Also Make Us Softer

By Maggie Bartlett

“I’m not sure we get strong at the broken places, although people love to say this happens. In truth, when I broke my toe, the doctor said, “It will take forever to heal, and never be quite as good as it was.” Life 101. It still hurts sometimes. This was just a toe bone. Big parts of us get broken, parts of our hearts, minds, and beings.” –Anne Lamott
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger; this is what I recently heard a close friend of mine say to someone who was in the midst of a difficult situation. It struck me, though I’ve heard it countless times. I wondered: is that true? Our friend was dealing with so much, including a broken leg, and all I could think was her body will never be the same. Her knee might give out every time she goes up the stairs or her leg will hurt when the weather gets cold. Are we really stronger after going through hell? Maybe.

We are coming up on the third anniversary of losing my dad. For the past three years, I felt like a shell of a person, tender and shattered. 

But with time, I started to recognize myself in the mirror again. And the person looking back isn’t stronger—she’s softer.

There is some truth to the common belief that hard things make us tougher because we are resilient and we do persevere. But sometimes, hard things also make us afraid. Because when we’ve been to hell, seen the pit and experienced the depth of sorrow, we never want to go back. We never want to hear any dreadful words like death, addiction, betrayal, miscarriage, cancer, suicide. We flinch just thinking about them. Because we know how scary it is—we saw it and we never want to see it again.

When devastation finds you, do you armor up ready for combat? Do you encourage yourself to fight and push through? I do, or I used to. Because I was good at it. I clutched my sword, prepared for battle. I’m fierce! I’m impressive! I’m powerful! No time for mourning or grief! I’m busy rescuing.

We don’t feel the depth and weight of sadness anymore. We’re not allowed to. Instead, we do better, get stronger, run faster. We dodge tears and evade gloom with an online shopping spree, a trip to Mexico or some fancy store-bought ice cream and binge-watching Netflix. We skim along the surface, careful to fly high and not get sucked into all that sad, touchy-feely stuff. The deep, rich, soul-altering stuff.

But you know what I learned when I let myself go deep, really deep? Deep into the realm of my sorrow and heartache? That I’m not a superhuman.

I am fragile.

Boy, am I fragile. I am so keenly aware of it. Yes, I am tough and resilient. But I’m also soft, needy and breakable—who knew? That’s the fullness of who I was created to be. I can’t rescue everyone or solve all the problems (but I sure did try). That’s God’s job. And this is where He does the unfathomable work, in the cracks, so I have to stop climbing out of them. 

I don’t want to be superhuman anymore. And that was God’s plan all along for me—to be human.

We are so fragile; we are so precious. He didn’t create us to be superhumans, just plain old beautiful humans. We must practice that. I’m trying to. Being a warrior constantly is tough work. The sword is heavy. If you find you’re able to put it down and rest, you may just see how bruised and broken you are. You may feel vulnerable, weak and tender. Feel it. He will be with you, in the silence. And when this happens, drink warm things and ask for hugs and cozy up in bed. Maybe even laugh, once you can finally breathe again.

Maggie Bartlett is a Colorado native, living in Denver with her husband. She works at a marketing agency and loves to write, climb mountains and travel in her free time.


  1. Maggie, I appappreciate the honest look at what so many people have trouble admitting....we aren't super humans, just humans! Me too!

  2. Thanks for your continued encouragement, Nancy!