by Kari Diane Pike
Our nine-year-old son asked me a question the other day. I didn’t have the answer. I told him I would have to think about it for awhile. That was Sunday. Today is Thursday. I still don’t have the answer. I discussed it with my husband. I discussed it with a friend at church. I even discussed it with complete strangers while I worked out at Curves. Now I am discussing it with you.
His question is, “What is the difference between power and strength?”
Personally, I think there is more than one answer to that question. I think it depends not only on the context of the question, but on the use of the words, “power” and “strength.” It depends on your personal experiences and perspectives, your age and even your gender.
I think you can have great strength (or physical ability), but you may not have the power (as is authority) to use that strength. I also think you can have power, but lack the strength (as in character) to successfully use that power.
I thought of my dear father-in-law when I pondered this question. Dad suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s. He used to have power and strength. His body and mind were strong and active. The man could build or fix anything. He always requested me to have a “honey-do” list ready for him whenever he came to visit. He was, as Kenny Chesney would sing it, our “unsinkable ship”…our “unbreakable wall.” Dad still has a great strength of body and will. He can walk for miles. He is determined to find whatever he is looking for. But his power of reasoning is gone. His power to communicate effectively is gone. He has lost the power to live independently. This man, who could take apart an engine and rebuild it again, can’t even figure out how to undo his own seatbelt.
His wife of nearly 60 years cares for Ken in the home they purchased over 40 years ago. Mom is his power. Everything she does for him is motivated by love and her desire to preserve his dignity and independence. Mom has been given strength beyond her ability to care for Dad. Mom has also been given the power to discern his needs and to communicate her love to him.
I thought about power and strength as it applies to our writing. What is the difference between powerful writing and strong writing? Is there a difference? Is one better than the other? You tell me.
Oh, and by the way, our son (the one who asked the question) is going to be a fifth grader next year. His teacher urged us to let him audition for the “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” show. Would any of you consider something like that for your child, or do you think it unwise to expose kids to that type of experience?