Brace your self: Kate McNally’s Thought for the Week

‘Our weaknesses are often also our strengths.’

'How can we turn off the fear that makes our strengths into weaknesses and damages our relationships with others?' | Photo: by Taylor Smith on Unsplash

To be loved just as we are is a gift. To be worthy of this gift assumes that we strive to be our best selves. Being our best selves requires that we acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses – further, that we explore the ways in which they relate to each other. This relationship is not always obvious, but sometimes it becomes clear with a little reflection. For example, I can be confident, organised and persistent; I can also be arrogant, controlling and stubborn. With a little thought we can see how, for example, confidence and arrogance are two sides of the same coin. So are stubbornness and persistence, being organised and being controlling, and being discerning and being judgmental.

Often we try to get rid of our weaknesses as if they were defects – ‘quality control’ errors or ‘black spots on our souls’. But we can’t do that without getting rid of our strengths as well. They are inextricably linked. We are the way we are made, and granting the gift of persistence also adds the problem of stubbornness. I believe that it’s important to realise that our weaknesses are often also our strengths. We need them to do the work we are called to do. We have persistence for a reason; our challenge is to keep it from hardening into stubbornness. We must take care that our strengths do not become weaknesses that threaten our communities and relationships.

But because our strengths are also our weaknesses, when we work to eliminate the weakness, we risk eliminating the strength. We might instead look for the catalyst that turns a strength into a weakness, the secret ingredient that can turn us from the person we hope or want to be into the one we fear that we are.

These strengths and weaknesses are related through one thing: fear. Specifically, the fear of losing something we have, or not getting something we want. When I’m feeling confident and fear enters the equation, that confidence can slip into arrogance. Conscientiousness can slip into workaholism. Persistence can slip into stubbornness. Peacebuilding can slip into people pleasing.

We are called into ministry just as we are, with all our ‘stuff’. So an important part of preparing ourselves for ministry, or any important work, is to understand ourselves. This understanding helps us control or minimise our weaknesses, to bring out our strengths when we need them. We need to learn to control that fear.

It is up to us to keep on the right side of that line – the right side of fear. But how can we keep an open heart in a world that daily shows us its cruelty? How can we turn off the fear that makes our strengths into weaknesses and damages our relationships with others?

I believe that the answer lies in faith. Faith that God will bring us through whatever ordeal we are struggling with. Faith that we will have what we need, even if it may not be what we think we need. Faith that we are held in the hand of God and will be OK, no matter what.

You need to login to read subscriber-only content and/or comment on articles.