Through this past year, hardship has been one of the themes that’s been on my mind. I’ve been through some myself, but it’s something that I’ve examined as an idea rather. Sure there have been seasons, where it seemed like everything was just right. There have been seasons where I was in control of all the important aspects of my life. However, every now and then I would come across quotes, such as “doing something important involves difficulty”. The previous thought can make you worried, if your life currently feels just right - am I doing anything worthwhile?
With that said, I’ve started to think about hardship and my outlook on it. Is it something to fear, or something to embrace, and from whom can I learn about it? As it turns out, some of the biggest champions when it comes to fighting through obstacles… are women.
So what credibility does a 24-year old guy have to speak about women? I might not be an expert, but I was raised by them. I was raised by an immensely strong mother and two caring older sisters. I was also born and raised in Finland, one of the most gender-equal countries in the world. To me there’s no question that women’s rights and well-being are critical factors in the success of any society.
When living abroad, one of the biggest avenues of growth is to think about who you really are. There are many environmental influencers that have affected your upbringing. So as my eyes opened and world-view broadened beyond the small borders of my own culture, I wanted to look at the history of the country i grew up in. One of the biggest discoveries was that women are giants in their mental prowess.
In 1918, only months after the Finnish Declaration of Independence, Finland went through a civil war. Only after about 20 years, Finland was faced with the Winter War and the Continuation War against the Soviet Union, a country with a size about 65 times that of Finland. All of the previous in just its first 30 years of independence!
With a population between only 3-4 million, Finland had to use every resource at hand. As the world wasn’t as technologically advanced as it is now, the resource was mostly… manpower. In other words, while the men were in war (and honorably so), the practical running of the country was on women’s shoulders. Women were truly an enormously strong pillar that the whole country was leaning on. Just imagine the weight of that: the uncertainty, being a support for the family, taking care of the young and the old, caring for possible animals, running the household… On top of that women formed a voluntary auxiliary paramilitary organization called the Lotta Svärd, which was possibly the largest of its kind in World War II.
In every success story there are multiple parts and contributors that made it possible. Obviously the veterans who fought in the wars are greatly honoured and regarded as heroes. Today in 2017, Finland celebrates its 100th year of independence as one of the safest and most prosperous countries in the world. I’d like to highlight that without the bold stance women took, there wouldn’t have been a country to come back to after the war.
My country’s history is an example of what great fortitude women carry. Don’t crucify me as I say that it’s a lesson that can sometimes be hidden from some, maybe because women more easily voice their worry. On the other hand, maybe this is one of the factors behind the (often) superhuman ability women have in bearing burdens. Not only from a man’s perspective, but also in light of what we know through psychology, women are generally more relationally capable and thrive in community. Seeing firsthand how loneliness is one of the biggest problems in the world, we all have a lot to learn from that quality.
This is not only about the women of Finland. This is about the power that lies in womanhood, all around the world. I am standing on the shoulders of both men and women alike who, in face of adversity, stood strong and fought for a better tomorrow.
Thank you - no matter your gender - for all the hardship you choose to face as part of a greater battle for a better tomorrow.