What if your greatest weaknesses are tied to your greatest strengths?
A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about our shadows and how to put things in place to protect you from the dangers of your greatest gifts. Check it out here. The basic idea was that we cast shadows. For example, people who are charismatic can become manipulative; people who are exceptionally loving can make unhealthy attachments. These are the shadows of the strengths and we would be wise to recognise and guard ourselves from them.
As I was thinking more about this last week I had a thought that I haven’t been able to shake: if our strengths have shadows then what if we began to recognise that our shadows are actually signposts towards our greatest gifts?
For example, I find that I am someone who gets extremely bored and frustrated. I love variety and so I struggle when jobs become repetitive or mundane. I beat myself up about this because I often feel like I am not as disciplined as other people. I hate the idea that people might think that I am lazy, I want them to see me as an organised leader. So, I hide this away and when it comes out I feel shame. To counter it I try all sorts of techniques to boost productivity: journals, pomodoro counters, alarms, etc. Of course, nothing works for more than a few weeks and I find myself frustrated again and again.
Rejection doesn’t work because my weaknesses are always me-shaped.
However, what if I own my lack of focus and saw the potential strength. The moments that I channel this energy into a positive space I find that I am creative and imaginative and that I can create links between ideas and projects that others seem to miss. When managed correctly, my chaos is explosive. I don’t need to be like other people. Rather than simply dismissing my weakness, by owning my shadow I find my strength.
Now, with my example that makes a lot of sense. However, what about the pastor who has an affair because he connects with people too well? What about the young guy who can’t control his temper and keeps getting into fights? Shadows can be destructive. What does owning their shadow look like for them? I want you to hear me right in this: owning is not the same as permission. I am not suggesting that we celebrate or encourage moral failure and I don’t believe that there is good in every evil. Sin is still the most destructive force on the planet. However, what if the moment we are confronted by a shadow, we recognise the shape of the strength, rather than focus on the failure, and call out the potential for greatness behind it. Rather than simply rejecting a weakness, perhaps we can get inspired for what a life could become and start to encourage that. The shadow then, rather than acting as a source of shame, becomes a signpost pointing us towards the life we were created for.
The woman who always gossips has the potential to be the best and most caring prayer partner. The competitive spirit that burns inside of you reminds you that you were made for a purpose. The singer who wants the world to look at him could step out of the light and point their energy towards Jesus. To reject or embrace a shadow will leave you feeling incomplete. However, you can own it, mourning what is has become, but recognising the shape and design for good. There is hope in our shadows.
I often look at the world in a binary way: right and wrong. However, what if the key to a fulfilled life is not to arbitrarily dismiss all our shadows but to own them and look through them towards the future that God intended us to have. Redemption is far more challenging but far more powerful than exclusion.