What defines a strong woman?

To answer this question I think of strong women who I admire; Eleanor Roosevelt, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, a few former patients and several dear friends. The thing they all have in common is they always chose to act with love, compassion, and kindness. They were able to work, thrive, and effect changes regardless of the situations in which they found themselves. I see the words of the “Serenity Prayer” active in their lives.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.
Amen.
Reinhold Niebuhr

I try to remember this when I create a heroine. I consider the era in which she lived, the constraints put upon her by societal norms, and imagine what a strong woman during that era would do to be reasonably happy in this life. This isn’t everyone’s approach. Many people love a feisty, outspoken heroine who challenges the norms because it is consistent with what modern women view as strong. I enjoy these heroines to a point as well but sometimes they seem so out of place it is difficult to suspend disbelief.

I try to imagine what it must have been like for my heroine and how she can best achieve her goals given her situation. For example, Katherine is essentially forced to marry a stranger. I can’t imagine being forced to marry, so I don’t know what I would do. However, I have a friend from India whose marriage was arranged by her parents. Once I asked her, “What if you didn’t like him or you didn’t get along?” She explained that it was her responsibility to make the marriage work. Her responsibility? That seems rather one-sided and unfair, however that was her family’s and her community’s expectation. I am not going to argue about whether that was right or wrong by my standards, it was what she believed.

Katherine believes this as well. She is committed to building a relationship with Niall, regardless of the fact that he is flawed and occasionally does and says things that hurt her emotionally. She chooses to love him unconditionally, so she perseveres. This means forgiving him for several big blunders. Women who would neither choose to do this nor see the value in it will probably not enjoy Highland Solution. However, for those of you who struggle from time to time with less than perfect people, in less than perfect situations, you might appreciate Katherine’s commitment to love and forgiveness.

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3 Responses to What defines a strong woman?

  1. Mary Morgan says:

    Ahhh…Ceci, so understand this post. I live with a man who is flawed, but I would not change him for the world, especially after thirty-three years, lol! I understood completely what I was facing when I stepped into this relationship, because I fell in love — flaws and all.

    And he loves all of mine, too. It’s called ‘compromise.’ 🙂

    I can hardly wait to start reading Highland Solution!

  2. cecigiltenan says:

    Recently, when asked, Pope Francis described himself as a sinner. That description pretty much works for all of us. I think when we accept our own flawed nature, it is easier to love others, flaws and all. I suspect that Katherine’s story will resonate with women like you and me who are committed to compromise and the long-haul.

  3. Pingback: Unconditional Love | Ceci Giltenan, Author

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