Sources of Inner Strength

How do we gain inner strength? The first answer is that in worldly life we gain inner strength through exercising our will. The will has been described as a sort of inner muscle, and it can be strengthened by regularly using it. It can also be strained by over-use, leading to what is sometimes called a ‘nervous collapse’. So it is the regular and realistic use of our will that strengthens it.

What will lead and motivate us to use our will? On reflection we find that the answer is, goals and values. We have exercised our will and gained inner strength, if at some time we have decided we want something and this has led us to make choices, efforts and sacrifices to achieve it. The objective could be in relation to anything: sport, career, relationships, travelling. Just wanting something does not mean much, but if we make choices, efforts and sacrifices over a period of time, whatever we may or may not have attained externally, we will have nurtured our will power.

Sometimes it is not that we want to attain or do something but that we wish to do so in a certain way. Then we can say we are guided not only by goals but values. We might decide that we want to be, and be known to be, competent or honest or kind. If again we make choices and efforts and even sacrifices to this end, we have significantly developed our will and inner strength.

This kind of inner strength can do much, but there is a limit; it depends on other desires not arising with equal or greater strength, and the human heart is prone to strange and powerful impulses. And even the healthiest of us regularly need periods of rest and recuperation.

The spiritual life depends on the development and exercise of a healthy will. But this kind of inner strength is not the end in itself, or the limit of our resources. It is valuable mostly because it gives us access to another source of inner strength, which is completely different in kind and scope.

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This article is from the Summer 2016 issue of Self-Knowledge Journal.