It's a word we hear all the time, and can men one of several things. For this topic, we will confine it's meaning to the familiar: the quality of being resilient, strong, hard to break or destroy. Not easily ruined or deformed. (I'm sure there's more that I could say, but I think you get the idea.)
And in that vein, I often hear it used by people to describe themselves; "oh, I'M TOUGH!!!" or, "I'm a tough cookie!" It's often used to describe to others that someone is unbreakable or not easily bent or dismayed. Unflappable would also be a good descriptor to use. In short, people don't want others to see them as weak, vacillating or uncertain. They certainly do not want to be seen as "cream-puffs" or weaklings....
But how tough are we really?
Acting tough and being tough are two different things. A big, burly man can ACT tough; that's machismo. A pillow, on the other had, may be soft but can withstand hundreds of pillow fights. Tough itself is a quality, not an act. Diamonds are also tough, but beautiful as well. Steel is tough, but it doesn't walk around proclaiming it's toughness. (If you EVER see inanimate objects doing that, start questioning what you are drinking!!!!)
"So, what is my point?" you may be asking by now...
Well, about 4,000 years ago, a man by the name of Pharaoh thought he was pretty tough. In fact, he thought he was so tough, that when Moses asked him at God's command to release the Hebrew slaves, Pharaoh refused and said to Moses :"...Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go." (Exodus 5:2)
Pharaoh thought that because of who he was and what he was, that no one could touch him. And we all know how that ended: God broke Egypt and drowned Pharaoh's army in the Red Sea.
Now, God doesn't want creampuffs serving him: being a christian is a hard job, and we can't be melting every time a challenge comes up: "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong." (1 Corinthians 16:13) We are to be strong in the Lord, and stand fast in the faith. But this kind of toughness is the toughness that doesn't come from ourselves; it comes from God, who is our Rock, tower and fortress. God works on us until we no longer try to ACT tough on our own, but we BECOME tough in him. In being vulnerable to him and leaning upon him, we learn to depend solely on him. Because of that strength, we grown in our toughness and like a diamond, we shine and are tough at the same time: "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Romans 12:2)
Another example is Peter; he once boasted that he would be faithful unto death to the Lord: "Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the **** crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee." (Matthew 26:33-35) Peter's pride instilled in him a toughness that lashed out in anger with a sword swipe that took a man's ear. But this pride and machismo melted away in fear when Peter denied Christ three times and the rooster crowed twice at that campfire where Peter tried to warm himself.
Could it be that when we act tough, God brings challenges and trials designed to break us and make him dependent upon him?
"But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." (James 4:6)
True toughness is being able to be vulnerable without fear; it's based in love, not pride. Pride is at the center of false toughness, and is a sham. True toughness is exemplified by Christ's sacrifice: he went willingly, without question. He loved us enough to be tough unto his death, and suffer the disgrace and humiliation, the pain and agony of the cruel cross of Golgotha.
That is my point: toughness is a quality, not an act. The next time we claim that we are tough, we should remember that there is one who was tough for all of us, and compared to that, all of us look like creampuffs. He died in our place so that we wouldn't have to die. And that is true toughness.
As for my toughness: I am but a pillow, soft and squishy.