"Mom, do you think I'm tough?" asked the 13 year old.
For a moment I pondered the traditional examples of toughness. She certainly is not a calloused person whose skin has been thickened through life's experiences and is difficult to get to know. She certainly isn't a bully or one that would succumb to the playground dare of taking a punch in the stomach.
I pulled out the dictionary to investigate the "official" meaning of the word. Some of the terms used such as rugged, severe, harsh, demanding, vicious and rough do not apply to her. But there have been times in her life when she has had the opportunity to develop resilience, another term associated with the concept of toughness in the dictionary.
As I considered her question, I began to develop another view of "toughness". That may not be the word that anyone uses to describe her due to how the world may define the concept. Because of her faith, her relationship with her Creator and Savior and her gentle heart, though, she is capable of acts that so much of the world would find "tough" or even impossible.
She has high expectations of every person she meets. She expects them to do their best and act their best always, but with an encouraging manner as opposed to a demanding one. How many of us who have been on the short end of a customer service situation or business dealing can say the same thing? It's tough to do. Many of us begin to lower our expectations so the sting of disappointment hurts less. She takes the risk of being disappointed every time, treats people accordingly and is often rewarded. That is toughness.
She also is tough enough to always look for the good in a person. While many look for some attribute/word/action to attack, to make someone look smaller so that we can look bigger, she looks to find something worth honoring in everyone. That is toughness. Now, I'm not saying that she is not disappointed when people don't live up to her expectations. But she will still approach the next person, expecting their best and looking for something good in them as a creation of God. Now, that is toughness.
So, I returned to her question.
"Mom, do you think I'm tough?"
"Yes, I do. Because you do what is tough."