Response to Elisabeth Part 1: Becoming Myself   Leave a comment

Elisabeth offered some insightful questions on Facebook in response to my post “I Am Handicapped”  She was responding to my comment “We all have handicaps, and we do well to recognize them.  God not only gave us all strengths, but he deliberately created us with weaknesses as well.  I think this was his way of making us interdependent, of tying us together in community.  Our weaknesses are not “bad” things, they are just part of who we are and who we will always be.  I may be able to improve or compensate for my weaknesses, but if I try to quash them or force them into conformity, I am being false to the way God created me.”

Elisabeth wrote, “I have been trying to think what it is that has been niggling at the back of my mind … Anyway, it is a feeling like the “That is just the way I am” statement if received with love and grace seems to be more like “That is out of my comfort zone” “God made me this way so just accept it even though it is inconveniencing or hurting you” … If the other person’s strength meshes with your weakness then that is great… although where I am weak is when I get to see God at work … “That’s just not me” is not off limits to God’s work and purpose. When both people say “That’s not the way I am made” then what happens. A friend told me that when your eyes are “going” (which mine are and I increasingly need reading glasses…smile) that as much as is possible to not use glasses so the eyes will continue to work…If you use the glasses all the time then your eyes just adjust to that. So if someone else “lovingly” steps in and is compensating for my weakness then I adjust to that and don’t trust Jesus to work on it. I am probably not making sense…I am just mulling things through so these are just thoughts on a journey not destination thoughts…”

Wow, she raises so many issues!  Thank you, Elisabeth, I want this site to be interactive.  It seems to me it would be so much more beneficial to all of us if it is a dialogue.  I think this will take several posts to touch on so many things (just to barely touch on them!).  I would like to share my personal journey regarding weaknesses, but the story is so long, I will put that on a separate page for those who have more time or patience or interest.  Suffice it to say here that most of my life I faced personal weaknesses as obstacles that needed to be “gotten over,” to be overcome and replaced with strengths.  I would compare my weaknesses with others’ strengths, setting that as my goal and mentally flagellating myself for falling short.  This belief had multiple downsides within myself and my relationships.

A few of my many weaknesses include forgetfulness, accident proneness, disorganization, and procrastination.  I do my best to compensate for these.  For instance, I am more organized in my work than most folks, but it does not come naturally to me.  Instead of being inherent and well-grounded, it is an entirely jerry-rigged contraption, like a fort built with scrap material by a little boy instead of one made from a manufactured kit by a skilled carpenter.  I have developed multiple props of lists, systems, calendars and the like, but it goes very much against the grain for me to operate this way, so I have to drive myself to it with shame and fear.

Inevitably, in spite of all my efforts, my disorganization glares through, and I fail to do what I am “supposed” to do.  Because my self expectations do not take into consideration my weaknesses, I feel ashamed for not meeting my own standards.  In short, I can only be an acceptable, worthy person by changing into someone I was not designed to be.  I don’t consider what method of work (and what choice of work) may be most fruitful for someone with my characteristics, but assuming that efficiency and productivity are the ultimate goals, I force myself into the system that will best meet these criteria, like David mistakenly trying to get into Saul’s armor to fight Goliath.

Weaknesses are often the alter-ego of our strengths.  In contrast to organization and task orientation, I am more naturally spontaneous, creative, relationally oriented.  By putting all my energy into becoming more organized around projects at work, I tend to stifle my strengths (which limit efficiency and organization).  Of course, efficiency and organization can be quite important, but if I make these my primary, default objectives, I have to ignore and override my natural tendencies which are valuable in their own right and are my particular gift to offer the world.  In contrast, I could use efficiency and organization as supports to my strengths (as needed) instead of a competition with them.  Allowing me to be myself in this way will require those who are more organizationally minded to either be patient with the speed, neatness, and method with which things are done or step in to add their gift of organization (not to insist that this be the paramount value, but just another part of the mix).  In this way we can learn to respect and value one another’s contributions.

Our Needs and Gifts Are Designed to Fit

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Posted July 24, 2011 by janathangrace in Personal

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