A few months ago I came across a post where a black man was thanking his wife for her strength. He posted a picture of his wife, tired and laying with their children. As he was thanking her, he also spoke on how he “tested” her strength with his behavior. He spoke on how he was immature, cheating, and disrespectful to her. Testing to see if she was “strong enough” for him. He concluded by saying that after all of his antics was over, he came to the realization that she wouldn’t fold. He stated that he realized her strength all along, and discovered a newfound appreciation for her. After she was broken down by him and his childish behavior, she persistently tolerated him and endured. She consistently forgave him. She still remained strong for both him and their children. While many would probably see this as an act of transparency and courage for a man admit to his own destructive behavior; what I saw was a pathology exposed in male behavior I have encountered many times myself.
I remember asking myself after I read his post: What made him question her strength in the first place? What gave him the authority to even test her strength via abusive and destructive behavior? What would of happened if she didn’t tolerate his behavior? What would be the judgement? I had to ask myself, do many men feel the same that exhibits similar abusive, disrespectful, and cheating behavior? Is a black woman’s strength only measured through her tolerance of such abusive behavior from a man? Is empathy to her pain not enough for a man to change his own behavior? Is the honor to exhibit a healthy character not enough for him to just be…… good? Could he have found the strength to change his own behavior without enacting pain on another? What if he never drew this conclusion? Would his behavior persist? Especially towards a woman he claims to love? Is this even Love?
I can recall my own experiences with physical and emotional abuse from the men I loved. Often the response to such abuse from others would be, “well at least it made you stronger and wiser?”. I have to ask myself, “Was I not ALREADY strong?”. Who determines one’s strength? To experience life as a black girl, I have already been tested throughout my childhood. Life lessons have also taught me. Even those not involving a man. Many black girls have experienced much trauma, loss, and abuse. Prior to even becoming an adult, and surely before even becoming lover. Prior to dating any man, I was already strong, determined, and self-sufficient. My experiences in my childhood, the lessons I learned from my mother, and others around me taught me many lessons. I was prepared as a young woman to face the challenges of Life. To play the cards life has dealt me. Why would a man feel he needs to further test my strength? Or the strength of any black woman? Who gave him the authority? Would the same be said if I exhibited the same behavior to test the strength of a man? Would he continuously endure or fold? Would he even stay?
Growing up a black girl… I knew at a young age, I had to be braver. I had to be more resilient. I had to be wiser. I had to be stronger. I had to be more determined. I had to be more ambitious….. just to win. After every lesson from my failed relationships, I had to find ways to build myself up. I was continuously broken down and disappointed. Many times I had to do this on my own. Interesting how the man I spoke of, had a woman to stick around. I often found myself alone, broken, and wounded. Could a man be just as strong for me? Experience taught me otherwise: “A man has always wanted to lay me down, but he never wanted to pick me up.”
– Eartha Kitt
Perhaps the man who thanked his wife could be honest, if he had the courage. His wife is possibly STRONGER than him. Was his behavior a justified test? Or possible resentment? Possibly envy or intimidation? Was it an excuse for why he didn’t have the courage…. to just change on his own? What is most obvious to me is: he mistreated her, simply because HE CHOSE TO. The same reason we do anything in Life. We make choices.
I remember last year, I thanked an ex-lover for the lessons I learned from my heart break. I remember he excused his behavior towards me. “Tanisha, I was broken”, he told me. Did he know when I met him, my heart was already broken? Yet, I still loved him. I still gave him what he desired. I didn’t want to break him. Because I knew what it felt to be broken. Was I weak? Was I foolish? Was I stronger than him? Sometimes it takes more courage to Love, while broken. Look at me now. I’m still here. Am I not already strong, or just STRONGER?
There’s a saying: “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”. I can recount the many times I thought death was the only option to the pain I was enduring. The many times I thought giving up was the only way for me to avoid the battles that I faced. But I never gave up. I never gave in. I remained brave. I remained optimistic. I remained courageous. I remained strong. For me. What I learned is….. everything that once tried to kill me, only made me STRONGER. Not because I needed to be tested. But because I always believed in my own strength.
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