“We are led to truth by our weaknesses as well as our strengths.”
Let Your Life Speak
The traditional approach to personal development tells you to focus on fixing your weaknesses. Well, the traditional approach is wrong. What I have found is that even if you rigorously apply all of your energies to improving your areas of weakness, the best that you can hope for is to become hopelessly mediocre.
You won’t succeed by addressing your weaknesses. Success comes in pushing past fear and confronting the lies and misconception about your weaknesses.
Success comes from flaunting your weaknesses and placing yourself in situations where you will thrive in your apparent flaws.
Of course we’ve all heard well-meaning critiques of our flaws. Over the course of my career, I have heard some of these knocks on my working style:
- You’re too introspective. You need to be more expressive.
- You’re too quiet. You need to share more.
- You’re too independent. You won’t get on board with the “vision.”
- You’re too focused on broken things. You need to be more innovative.
I tried to address these “weaknesses” for years. As I worked hard to do better in these areas, three things happened.
- I became only moderately successful in these areas.
- I starved my innate strengths.
- I felt like I was suffocating in this lie about improving myself.
Self improvement is the path to losing your unique soul. You can count on it. Instead, I had to risk highlighting my weaknesses, and allow them to be seen for what they are – the strengths that make me singularly effective.
The core to the lie of self-improvement is first the assumption that you are flawed.
The implication that you are incorrectly designed undermines the very purposes that you are created for, and results in impeding your unique assignment in the world. Jesus challenged the lie this way:
“What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk.”
Matthew 10:29-31 The Message
The truth is counter-intuitive. The key to is to exaggerate your weaknesses, not cut them off.
- Too introspective? I got even more introspective. I embraced my contemplative nature and now serve as a spiritual director. Not surprisingly, a lot of my work revolves around people who are searching to recover and express their God-given identity.
- Too quiet? I became more quiet. I am comfortable with silence and continue to cultivate it. Silence allows me to listen, to discern, and to help people recognize their spiritual journey. It allows me to untangle and guide them through confusion and apprehension and be grounded and empowered in the divine, present moment. I accept, assure and affirm people as a beloved children of God.
- Too independent? I became even more independent from the “vision” of other people, and more dependent on God’s unique vision for my life. This lead to walking away from the mega-church world and moving to a different sphere of pastoral work. I am a natural and intuitive leader, but bad experiences with other “leaders” found me adopting more of a follower approach. Now, as a spiritual director, speaker and consultant I lead people and groups without an overriding agenda.
- Too focused on broken things? I am now even more committed to brokenness. I’ve committed my life to broken people. And it came by first entering into intense work to get at the core of my own brokenness. The Strengths Finder profile regarded my highest strength as Restorative. I probe into broken situations, find the causes, and help to restore. Even when I was working in retail, my reputation was not opening new stores, it was for entering under performing stores and turning them around. I never did this through process. It was always achieved by working with the people, finding their strengths, and then releasing them to work the processes and turn things around.
Here are some resources that have helped me understand this dynamic: Marcus Buckingham has done great work in these areas for years, and Dave Rendall’s book The Freak Factor was a discovery tool for me. If your soul is even slightly malleable, Parker Palmer will speak to it.
So how about you? What is one your supposed weaknesses? Instead of apologizing for it, how could you flaunt it? How are you able to put this weakness/strength to work?