Spirituality principles, struggles, knowledge base and insights for the earnest seeker.

Understanding Strengths and Weaknesses

We all have strengths and weaknesses. We love others for their strengths and hate them for their perceived weaknesses. Often times we wonder how someone can have such strengths and yet have such weaknesses at the same time. This duality of strengths and weaknesses annoy us and at times it confuses us.

Making Sense of Strengths and Weaknesses

Our confusion regarding strengths and weaknesses stem from our flawed understanding and outlook of human personality. We tend to see strengths and weaknesses as being mutually exclusive. We reason “If someone is strong, how can they be weak?” We tend to look at humans in either a god-like way or a demonic way. Someone is either strong or weak, good or bad, successful or a failure.

The truth of the matter is that strengths and weaknesses are actually two sides of the same coin. They are like a pair of dancers dancing in cohesion. They are like Yin and Yang, different but not exclusive to one another. They are opposite poles yet part of the same whole.

If we see strengths and weaknesses in this new light, we would be easier able to accept everyone for who they are. We will have no need to idolize someone or even demonize another. We would see others as a reflection of ourselves because in all essences, that is exactly who they are. We would come to accept others – no matter how different – as people worthy of equal respect as us. As we are flawed, so are they. As we are hurt so is another. As we seek healing likewise all of humanity does too.

So let us not be too judgemental. Let us seek to understand for in understanding lies acceptance and appreciation.

This little video explains clearly how someone who is perceived to be strong can have great weaknesses. It explains a concept called the Weakness of Strength. It’s well worth a watch. Read the transcript for greater understanding.

[learn_more caption=”Read Transcript by iThink”]

Video Transcript

The failings of friends, colleagues and partners can be deeply galling. We got close to them because of their skills and merits but after a while it can be the disappointing sides of their personalities that dominate our view of them. We look upon their faults and wonder again and again why they are the way they are. Why so slow? Why so unreliable? How can they be so bad at explaining things or telling an anecdote. Why can’t they face bad news straight on? Even worse we feel they could change if only they really wanted to. If only they won’t so mean. It’s at moments of particular agitation that we need to remember a theory called the weakness of strength. This dictates that we should always strive to see people’s weaknesses as the inevitable downside of certain merits that first drew us to them and from which we will benefit at other points – even if none of these benefits are apparent right now. What we’re seeing are not their fault, pure and simple but rather the shadow side of things that are genuinely good about them. We are picking up on weaknesses that derive from strengths.

Henry James and Ivan Turgenieff

In the eighteen seventies when he was living in Paris the American novelist Henry James became good friends with a celebrated Russian novelist Ivan Turgenieff, who was also living in the city at that time. Henry James was particularly taken by the unhurried tranquil style of the Russian writer’s storytelling. Turgenieff obviously took a long time over every sentence, weighing different options, changing, polishing until at last everything was perfect. It was an ambitious, inspiring approach to writing but in personal and social life these same virtues could make Turgenieff a maddening companion. He’d accept an invitation to lunch then the day before send a note explaining that he wouldn’t be able to attend then another saying how much he looked forward to the occasion then he turned up two hours late. Arranging anything with him was a nightmare. Yet his social waywardness was really just the same thing that made him so attractive as a writer. It was the same unwillingness to hurry, the same desire to keep any options open until the last moment. This produced marvelous books and dinner party chaos. In reflecting on Turgenieff character Henry James reflected that his russian friend was exhibiting the weakness of his strength.

The Weakness of Strength

The theory goes like this. Every strength that an individual has necessarily brings with it a weakness of which it is an inherent part. It is impossible to have strengths without weaknesses. Every virtue has an associated weakness. Not all the virtues can belong together ever in a single person. This is a theory that can help us to calm down at moments of particular crisis because it changes the way we see the defects failings and drawbacks of others. Our minds tend to hive off the strengths and see these as essential while deeming the weaknesses as a kind of freakish Adam but in truth the weaknesses are part and parcel of the strengths. The theory usefully undermines the properly unhelpful idea that if only we looked a bit harder we would find someone who was always perfect to be around. If strengths are invariably connected to failings, there won’t be anyone who’s remotely flawless. We may well find people with different strengths but they will also have a new litany of weaknesses. It’s always calming to take a moment to remind ourselves the incredible idea that perfect people simply don’t exist.

A labor of love for the seeker – whoever you are and wherever you may be. May you find solace in these words.

Your brother in spirit

ben gill

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