“Strong Women: May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.”

This quote is flying around everywhere these days–on social media, t-shirts, wall decor, coffee mugs, and even keychains. (I thought the keychain thing was just a joke, but I checked Etsy; there are several for your purchasing pleasure.) Even my 7-year-old has caught the fever, requiring all who enter her room to repeat “strong girls, strong world.” But I often wonder what people mean when they refer to strong women. What kind of strength are they talking about? Are they thinking of female entrepreneurs, politicians, and CEOs? Or maybe they’re thinking of CrossFit ultra-marathon babes for whom they created the phrase “strong is the new skinny”? While these successes are certainly to be admired, my idea of a strong woman has nothing to do with her occupation or the amount of weight she can deadlift. The strongest women I know are defined by their strength of character and quality of heart. The following traits require an incredible amount of strength and characterize a truly strong woman:

A strong woman’s values are unwavering.  

A strong woman stands up for what is right, even if it’s unpopular; she holds to the truth.

A strong woman perseveres.

A strong woman knows that her past does not define who she is.

A strong woman isn’t threatened by another’s success, but encourages and empowers others.

A strong woman holds her tongue when tempted to be critical or complain.  

A strong woman overlooks an offense.  

A strong woman shows restraint, slandering no one.  

A strong woman assumes the best, giving others the benefit of the doubt.  

A strong woman is resourceful, finding a way to get things done.  

A strong woman can laugh at herself.

A strong woman delegates because she knows her value doesn’t lie in having to do it all.  

A strong woman celebrates the diverse giftings of others, giving them the freedom to be themselves.  

A strong woman serves, spending herself on behalf of others.

When life doesn’t turn out according to her plan, a strong woman walks through disillusionment and presses on.

A strong woman shows honor and respect to others whether or not it’s deserved.  

A strong woman doesn’t force her way, but is patient, submitting to God’s plan.  

A strong woman fights her battles in prayer.

A strong woman is vulnerable enough to let others see her weakness.

A strong woman relies on others, understanding the beauty of interdependence.  

A strong woman’s heart breaks for others who are hurting.  

When life is bleak, a strong woman holds on to the promise of hope and a future.  

A strong woman fights through physical and emotional pain to get out of bed each day.  

A strong woman reaches for excellence, not perfection.  

A strong woman can laugh without fear of the future.  

She takes risks.  

She is brave.  

She doesn’t let fear cripple her.  

She puts one foot in front of the other and keeps moving.

She tries one more time.

Strong women smile.  

Strong women cry.  

Strong women stay.  

Strong women go.  

Strong women fight.  

Strong women surrender.  

Strong women love.  

Strong women treasure.  

Let’s be honest: Strong women Freak. Out!  

Then they find strength they didn’t know they had, remaining steady in uncertainty, hopeful in defeat, and faithful in prayer.

These are the strong women I know. This is the strong woman I aspire to be. And these are the strong women I want to raise. These kinds of women may never make a name for themselves by breaking the glass ceiling or winning an Ironman, but they will have left a legacy of honor and strength to all who knew them. This kind of legacy multiplies, the effects of which can last for generations. Strong girls really do make a strong world. Maybe I’ll buy that keychain, after all.

In loving memory of Bonnie Reeb and Anna Mae Routh, written by Erica Horyza.