“Nothing is so strong as gentleness; nothing is so gentle as real strength.”

This little saying (author unknown), which hangs in our home, illuminates the idea that real strength is more than brute force.

Think of people you admire whose inner strength changed the world. Civic, political, spiritual and philosophical leaders as diverse as Jesus Christ, Socrates, the Buddha, Plato, Oskar Schindler, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama and Rosa Parks all have demonstrated real strength.

As parents, we too can model the gift of strength. A non-violent spouse is stronger than one who demeans or hits. An even-tempered parent who guides children with talk and time-outs is stronger than one who screams or slaps. It takes more strength to manage a temper than to unleash it. Real strength is steady and thoughtful, principled and true.

My son came home from school fighting tears the day a major sports hero was arrested for hitting his wife. “It’s hard to watch heroes fall,” my husband, Bob, observed.

Father and son launched a discussion. What makes a man strong? How come some famous people don’t consider the feelings of their littlest fans?

That night, Bob read our son a bedtime story, just like always. Over time, the books have gone from Sesame Street to sports, but the father/son ritual remains.

I leaned down for a goodnight kiss. Seeing my son curled contently beneath his covers, I knew he was in the comforting presence of the world’s strongest man. “Sorry you lost your hero,” I whispered.

“But I didn’t,” he whispered back. “I have Dad.”