We see chrome all the time. That shiny metal that gives a product some glitz. Perhaps you even know it’s just a coating. Chrome plated metal looks sexy on cars, motorcycles, big trucks and other vehicles. But even plastic can be coated with chrome, for other parts of vehicles, or your coffee maker or hairdryer. It has nothing to do with strength. It’s all about external appearances. Chrome plated plastic breaks pretty easily. It’s all mirrors.
A “trial by fire” might indeed make you strong. Or you may look at others who have suffered greatly, and think they are strong. But sometimes, that’s just a surface coating on a fragile person underneath.
Some people might look strong and shiny from the outside, externally. We think their determined responses are signs of strength. But they may be only signs, not manifestations. Signs can be misleading. They could be *acting* like a strong person – wearing the mask of strength, following a rehearsed script based on seeing other “strong”-appearing people.
The word “hypocrite” comes from the Greek word for actor.
If you’ve undergone trials by fire via suffering imposed from external sources, and you’ve coated your outside to look strong and attractive, you’ve done so out of fear of further victimization. If you “look strong,” you believe you signal to others that they shouldn’t mess with you. That’s acting.
What if your trial by fire has been internal?
You’ve become more perpetually aware of your own hypocrisy. You’ve examined the secrets that you keep from the rest of the world, and the delusions you have been telling yourself. It leads to a place of self honesty. And then honesty with the whole world. It also leads to compassion and the recognition that everyone else is keeping secrets also, out of fear.
Facing one’s own imperfections, hypocrisy, and vulnerabilities is a paradox of strength. Authentic strength, forged by fire from the inside, not the outside.
That’s the kind of person who breathes fire from the inside. And that is not a dragon who imposes fear, but one who embraces the world in flames of compassion and original expressions of love.
That’s the kind of person who cannot be messed with.
Neil D. 2023-01-20