A friend of mine asked me a few months ago “What are your weaknesses?” After mulling it over for a couple of minutes, to be honest, I couldn’t think of any. Now don’t start thinking I’m a smug bastard, I know for a fact that I am far from perfect. Then I thought, well I am not quite sure what my strengths are either. I guess the way I have to come to view myself is a work in progress. It seems to me that trying to determine what strengths and weaknesses are is tricky business. I might say that I worry too much, but at some level worry brings about a level of awareness that might help you act or reach a solution. Worrying too much is obviously a problem though as it can be draining and waste time. Not worrying at all, might also be dangerous as it may make you apathetic to important things. I used to be a huge worrier, but I always looked at it as a quality that was part of a spectrum from too much worry, to not worrying at all, and that there was a healthy balance in there. So it wasn’t so much that worrying was a weakness but that I had to find an appropriate way of using that “worry” towards being constructive and not destructive. And I always felt that worrying was better than apathy. To me, all strengths and weakness are not an either, or, but rather qualities that lie on a continuum between two extremes and thus any weakness may have some important qualities that we simply need to foster more.
If I say that my strength is kindness, does it mean I don’t have room to grow? Does it mean that I couldn’t be more kind? I have never been one to simply rest on laurels as I think it is important to strive each day to be more than we are (provided we are lucky enough to live in an environment where we have such an opportunity and are not fighting for basic subsistence needs like so many in this world). Our strengths might manifest themselves in different ways. While I may be kind, how I show that kindness may not be the right way for that particular situation. Sometimes “tough love” is the best way to deal with a particular situation. Some people respond to a stricter approach, drawing definite boundaries. Some people respond better to you when you are sensitive, soft-spoken and supportive. Some people might respond to both depending on the situation. It takes time and experience to gain the wisdom to know how best to be kind to those around you. Should I say it is a fault or a weakness when I show kindness in a way that makes sense to me, but is not received as such to the other person? Or should I simply reflect and say, “I am glad my heart was in the right place, but I need to do better.” And what if the person you are showing kindness to, feels grateful, but isn’t good at showing it? As I’ve mentioned before, one of the amazing parts about life is that we never know how we may impact others. Someone might be angry or frustrated with you in the moment, but only realize the kindness you showed years later.
In the end I would say that my greatest strength is that I feel I value good things like happiness, learning, compassion, self-reflection, equality, a strong work ethic, and humility, and that my weakness is that I am incomplete in demonstrating those qualities to a capacity I am completely comfortable with. And that I may not be aware of the importance of other character traits that might make me and this world a better place. And I accept that not only will this “weakness” never go away, but it might also be the very thing that allows me to become stronger, wiser, and appreciative of life in new ways all the time. And so, in what might be a somewhat ironic way, the parts of me that I will not change, are the various things that allow me to change. After all, why would I want to be the exact same person all my life, as if that were even possible? 🙂