Why is Your Weakness Really Your Strength?

    Think of your deficits as water on a stone, more powerful than you ever thought

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    I often sit on the porch of our house watching the children climb the magnolia tree, and right in the middle of the step leading up to the porch there is a crack. As I sit on the sun-warmed stone, it is inconceivable that I have to fix it; winter seems so far away. Water can destroy a rock, but it takes so long that it is hardly noticeable.

    Water is insubstantial compared to rock, and yet in the end, water is the most powerful element. Over the centuries, it has shaped the earth, cut deep into it, worn away mountains. This liquid that seems so weak that it slips through your fingers turns out to be the strongest of all.

    Strength and weakness are often confused in our minds. When we feel weak, we try to hide it by projecting strength. When we are really strong, we rarely feel strong; instead, we know the hidden truth: that we are tied together with hidden seams, fissures in the soul where the water has penetrated and is slowly pulling us apart.

    The outward show is nothing more than a way to cover up emotional shortcomings, flaws, and secret sins. Those who recognize themselves weak, on the other hand, have a certain seductive force. Humility has penetrated deep into his blood and marrow to soften the foundation of personal pride. Like water dripping on a rock, his weakness has been revealed as his strength.

    The weakness of all

    I deal with personal weakness on a daily basis. As a priest, every time I go up to the altar it is with an abiding sense of my unworthiness to stand in the place of Christ and offer Mass. Over the years, I have come to an intimate knowledge of my strengths and weaknesses.

    People often ask for help that I cannot provide: wise advice, a solution to their marital problems, or the gift of spiritual and emotional healing. They want me to explain their suffering, help them find God, or even make their children listen better.

    The cassock I wear visually transforms me into a spiritual father, and while I greatly appreciate the power of the symbol and the trust that people place in the priesthood, expectations of how many problems a priest can solve are drastically overestimated. After all, try as I might, I’m just a man, a combination of strength and weakness. While I am more than happy to listen, pray, and offer the help that my ministerial priesthood provides, sometimes I cannot give what is asked of me.

    List of weaknesses

    My own laundry list of personal weaknesses is long. When I speak of weakness I do not simply mean bad habits and flaws. I also mean the simple fact that we can’t all be good at everything.

    Some priests are wonderful public speakers, others are wise and patient counselors. Some are good at managing budgets, others are talented in academics and teaching in schools. Maybe as a parent you’re good at sports or helping with homework. Maybe you are not. Maybe what you’re really good at is totally different. Perhaps you look at other people and are jealous of their strengths. I guess they’re looking back at you, thinking the same thing.

    There are all kinds of articles on the Internet about turning weaknesses into strengths. I am a huge fan of self-improvement. I try it in my personal life all the time. That doesn’t mean we stop trying, there are certainly victories along the way, but it’s also important to make peace with the fact that we can’t do everything. There will be many areas where you and I will continue to be weak.

    But remember, weakness is water. Weakness is strength

    Ursula LeGuin, in her novel Five Ways to Forgive, writes: “Look at the water… Find the weak places in the rock, the openings, the gaps, the absences. Following the water we get to where we belong.”

    Humility and gratitude

    Weakness, like water, delves into foundational qualities like humility and gratitude. When we recognize our weakness, we make peace with who we are, we discover true self-knowledge. It also teaches us to trust each other, in our families and communities, to turn our diverse gifts into strengths that we share with one another.

    It seems to me that when we all take posturing and try to be invincibly strong and self-reliant, we lose the virtues that are often seen as weak: joy, innocence, honesty, hope, and love. These virtues, however, are precisely what make life worth living when we honor them in ourselves and others. If we follow them, they will lead us to the kind of strength that endures.

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    At Resonance, we aspire to live in harmony with the natural world as a reflection of our gratitude for life. We are co-creating an inspired and integrative community, committed to working, living and learning together. We resonate with that deep longing to belong to the hive and the desire to live the highest version of ourselves in service.
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