Length does not make strength!

Mrs. Chaplick, my English teacher at Girls’ Catholic High School in Malden, MA circa 1992 (notice the actual chalk board and chalk in the background!)

When I was in high school, my English teacher, Mrs. Chaplick used to say “length does not make strength.”  This was in response to some of the wordy essays she would get.  More doesn’t always mean better.  Sometimes more just muddies the waters and buries the message in the writing.

Although it has been many years since I sat in her class, I always remember this phrase because it helps me remember that sometimes the simplest answer is the correct one.  And then it takes me to another place where I begin to understand what it truly means to be strong.

When we think of the strong people in our lives, we see them as leaders who have unwavering conviction and who back down at nothing.  They fight for what is right and needed.  They make waves and sometimes they make us feel uncomfortable.  Their strength can amplify our own fears that we are not enough to get the job done.

Well, here’s a secret:  It isn’t easy being the strong one.

Strong often means being the one that must go against the tide.  Strong people can make us feel weak or confused because they show us that what is accepted as a given isn’t the only way.  We love to look up to our strong brothers and sisters as heros, who paved the way so we could do things we could not do before.

The real wisdom in this phrase, “length does not make strength,” is that there is a time for us all to know when it is okay to back down. It’s not always about fighting for something.  Sometimes it takes great strength to simply walk away, or leave something behind.  Letting go of something or someone that has served its purpose is so difficult, people spend their whole lives stuck in place, unable to move on.

At times, strength can be quiet and unassuming, merely existing as an example for others to live by.  Strength is not always bold and in your face.  It can be found in those who care for the sick and elderly.  It can be found in the survivors of tragedies who continue to thrive despite the trauma they have endured.

You should never mistake being loud, obnoxious, threatening or bullying as strength, or should you think of being quiet, submissive, unquestioning or stepping away from a fight as weakness.  Each embodies its own form of strength.  When great love is shown in any action, there lies within it great strength.

Above all things, if you come from a place of love, know that you are as strong as the strongest person you admire in your own special way.

And thank you, Mrs. Chaplick.  You may have thought you were only my English teacher, but you taught me much more than you may ever know about life and what it means to be a strong person.


~ by healingstarspirit on May 17, 2011.

2 Responses to “Length does not make strength!”

  1. I am Mrs. Chaplick, the teacher about whom the essay ‘Length does not make strength’ was written. My son saw it one day when he googled my name for something, and he forwarded it to me.
    I would love to know who this student was who wrote the essay because I would like to thank her as well
    Teachers seldom hear about the differences we make in our students, but long ago I was aware that they were always observing and listening to the adults in their lives. Often it is the smallest aside that a young person hears or notices. I am so happy to read that I was able to be a positive role model to a teenage girl.
    She and I are both 26 years older than we were in 1992. Now I am retired from the classroom but not retired entirely from teaching because I am the grandmother of two teens and a 10 year old. I delight in being with them, listening to their stories, and helping them where I can. These days I spend many hours watching their soccer games and dance recitals.
    So thank you, my anonymous student. I would love to hear from you and I am adding my name and email to this note.
    I want you to know that I am well and about to embark on a cruise to the Holy Land, where I plan to visit many of the sites we Catholic school girls learned about from the nuns who taught us.
    Be well and be assured I will reply.
    Sincerely yours,
    Mrs. M. V. Chaplick


  2. Please pass my email address on to the young woman who wrote about me.
    Thank you.


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