Arcana in Balance: Strength (reprise)


strength

 

The Strength card is all about character, personality and behavior, but it mirrors physical strength a bit. Anyone can be as physically strong and fit as their health allows…all it takes is action, discipline and perseverance. Not easy, but do-able.
Strength of character is the same. We can all be courageous and strong. It is just a matter of reason, action and of dealing with fear. Not easy, but do-able.
The Strength card is often read as “courage” , but also “integrity”. The enemy of integrity is fear. Courage is not the absence of fear…courage is doing the right thing in spite of it. Part of the balance in this card is fear vs courage. The card isn’t about cultivating the absence of fear, but about cultivating integrity in the face of it.
Few Tarot cards are as straightforward as this one. This card doesn’t pull any punches, but that is the nature of “Strength” and “integrity”, isn’t it? This card is also one the major arcana balance points that asks the most of us. Physical strength training is hard – so is character strength training.
If this card comes along, it is can also be a card of encouragement, asking you to do the right thing even if it is frightening or holds some emotional risk. This card cautions us against giving in to fear and anger… a very Yoda-like reminder to avoid the “dark side”.  I have a poster that says it all for me…”There is nothing so strong as gentleness, and nothing so gentle as true strength”. Strength isn’t fearful or violent. Strength is  a calm, peaceful, serene place to be.
By the same token, Strength is not inactive. That would be closer to stagnation, and another card to come later. Strength is like a warrior, not a brawler. Strength acts and  protects with integrity. No wonder so many Tarot decks show a lion on the Strength card. The lion hints at action and ferocity when warranted, but never needlessly.
If the Strength card comes to you in a reading, think where you are paralysed by fear, and don’t act as you should. Where in your life do you have bluster, bravado, noise and empty activity that stems from fear rather than strength? How can you set aside your fears and act with integrity, gentleness, and when it is truly needed, with ferocity?
Underneath it all, at the root of all of this, is a balanced reaction to fear. To completely disregard fear is reckless, endangering yourself and others. Strength and courage does not disregard fear. It uses fear to know when something is wrong, what is needed, and what not to do.
Strength is gentle…when one is truly strong, there is no need for arrogance, or empty demonstrations. Strength does what needs done, but isn’t show-off-y about it. Like the lion on the Tarot card…it walks gently along with the woman on the card, without need to show its full ability, without the need to impress or frighten others to make itself feel strong.
It takes a lot to find balanced strength, but it gives a lot in return.

 

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