Slices of Life: Strong like…

"Sheer force is just one type of strength. There are other ways to be strong," writes Jill Pertler.

Jill Pertler
Jill Pertler

A friend recently encouraged me to be “strong like bull.” I was a bit confused (not uncommon.) Somehow, I thought the phrase was “strong like bear.” Which, of course, lead me to the Google.

Turns out the phrase “strong like bull” is a pop culture reference from a handful of movies, TV shows and song lyrics. Bears may not have the media accessibility in reference to their strength that bulls do, but they’re not letting that stop them.

While bulls are indeed strong, an individual male grizzly has the strength of five humans. It’s unsure who’d win out in a head to head match up between these two formidable mammals, but their strength is of the brute force variety. Neither bears nor bulls are gentile or precise in their movements.

The phrase, “Like a bull in a china shop” exists for a reason.

Bulls (and bears) are likely to destroy anything in their path. (And I’m not referencing the stock market.) I’m not sure I want that type of strength.


Sheer force is just one type of strength. There are other ways to be strong. Strong like…

A blade of grass. Grass starts out as a seed, under ground, in the dark. A little spark of hope alights inside it, causing it to break out of its seed casing and reach for the light. Grass is the strength of hope and faith.

I’d like that kind of strength.

A drop of water. When added together, single drops of water become ounces and cups and gallons and lakes and rivers and oceans. They nourish the planet — from blades of grass, to trees, to insects, to sparrows, to bulls, to bears to humans. A drop of water is necessary for life. It illustrates the importance of coming together. One drop alone — while wholly water in its own right — can’t do much. But many drops united can accomplish what an individual drop can’t. It’s a nourishing, coming-together for the betterment of all strength. Water is the strength of unity. We can learn much from water.

The strength of water is cleansing and good.

A tree. Trees grow — long, solid and steadfast. They are patient, looking down over the same landscape for decades and sometimes even centuries. They communicate in ways we are only starting to understand — through their roots to ward off insect parasites. They share water and nutrients. They breathe in carbon dioxide and create oxygen for animals and humans. They provide shelter from the sun and homes to birds and other critters. They provide lumber for our homes. Trees tower over us, observing it all. They are the past, the present and the future. They are the strength of perseverance, fortitude and steadfastness.

It’s a strength worthy of wanting and waiting for.

The Sun. Our Sun provides light and warmth to the planet, its people and all other animals and organisms that call Mother Nature “home.” The Sun defines our days and our years. We mark time by her revolutions. We plant crops according to her seasons. She helps feed us and nurture us. She impacts the ocean’s tides. The Sun’s strength is an all-encompassing one — surrounding us all in her light from the day we are born.


I aspire to a strength like the warmth of the Sun.

There are plenty of ways to be strong. I’m glad for that. To be strong like bull or bear might be formidable, but perhaps one-dimensional. Real strength involves more than muscles and a killer instinct.

It is hope. It is faith. It is unity. It is perseverance, fortitude and steadfastness. It is all-encompassing. And more.

So much more.

Be strong — whatever that means for you.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright and author. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright and author.
What To Read Next
Get Local