our weaknesses, our friends.

I’ve noticed much said lately about Weaknesses – or rather, much is being said about trying to get around weaknesses to go straight for the more desirable Strengths.

“Strength to strength.” “Downplay your weaknesses.” I even came across the odd idea of “opposing strengths” which doesn’t dare use the “w” word (kind of like not saying “Voldemort.”)

We’re not talking about those things we have a weakness for, such as chocolate, or eyes-that-make-you-melt (“Oh, valley of temptation into which I willingly go…”) We’re talking cringe-worthy, hide it from your best friend, hide it from Your Self, weaknesses that make us feel unworthy or vulnerable. Or “not as-good-as.”

I’m going to step away from the crowd and gently propose this: that our weaknesses may be there to be our greatest allies. That they can be a mirror in which we see our strengths reflected – a way to identify, clarify, and draw defining edges around them.

Our weak spots are the high fragile rope bridges we must cross between the shores of solid ground. Crossing these bridges makes us more careful, more attentive, and more deliberate… and sometimes affords us a magnificent view and a shorter path to our destination.

When we can see our weaknesses as integral parts of the whole picture, they simply become the parts that need attention and TLC to be brought into alignment with the strengths.

Weaker spots and imperfections can be found in most any structure, especially one that’s been around for a while (ok – one that has a little age on it!) We investigate for weaknesses on purpose by routine – think of building or health inspectors – with the intent of improving, repairing, and increasing the strength of the whole.
Why not do the same on a more personal level, lessening our discomfort (and the possibility of retreat) with the objectivity of a deliberate inspection? A Self-Inspection, checklist and all? (Yes, you may burn that checklist when you are done!)

Defining weaknesses in this way allows us to determine what we don’t do well, so we can flip it and see what we do do well. I’ll share just such a clarifying moment: Most of my current work life is in hospitality and events and festivals, and one recent evening spent in a crowded atmosphere of loud music, activity and sensory overload – the way I used to work all the time – brought my weaknesses right back up to the surface. I felt like a part of a fast-moving machine where speed and efficiency were the only qualities of value, and I was going all-out just to keep up. Discomfort, indeed.

As the night came to an end, though, and I was reflecting on what I did not want – to work from my place of weakness – I suddenly realized where my strengths are: I’m at my best when I can connect and engage one-on-one and have meaningful conversations. I love to help you find answers to your questions, share your quest for good food and good experiences, and be part concierge, part tour guide for you. Oh, yes, that’s what I’m good at, and thank you, weakness, for showing me the light!

We simply cannot be made only of strengths and still get something out of being human. When we can see our strengths as tools we use to learn and grow, and see weaknesses as our lessons and teachers, we can also understand that they are not opposites at all – just perfect and different parts of a perfect whole. If it’s true that we become “stronger in the broken places” – then maybe our weaknesses can become our strongest places of all.

After all – what defines anything as a strength, or a weakness, is just a judgement.

how to become an un-believer.

Yesterday I was watching a rerun of an old favorite TV show (to be revealed later so as not to distract from our topic) and was really caught by this scene: our heroine, wanting a moment’s relief from knowing the emotionally gut-wrenching consequences of her duties, looks to her mentor – her “Watcher” – and says, “lie to me.”

He obliges, saying something to the effect of “the heroes will always be good and true, the bad ones always all bad, and it will always be easy to know the right thing to do.”

Of course, we know better, right? It’s never that clear-cut, never that black-and-white.

Which is, actually, great news.

Because my point here is not about ‘all good’ or ‘all bad’ – it’s about the Lie.

In our example, the “lies” he tells her are actually pretty good stuff. Stuff she really wants to believe. Because the Lie that won’t let go of her, the one she does believe – that painful darkness is always lurking and will never end – is dreadful. Paralyzing. Keeps her from going forward.

Until we’ve dissolved through all those silly repeating habitual beliefs about ourselves and our lives that we picked up and accepted along the way, we are in the thrall of the Lie, and we will keep coming right back to it (or them, since there’s usually more than one running simultaneously in the background, like faulty programming.)

A return visit to the big L is promised every time – here’s the surprising part – whenever we consciously choose not to believe it. When we first choose to be an un-believer.

Stay with me here, solid ground is up ahead.

Try this: imagine you’ve had a creative breakthrough, all joy and in-the-flow and “a-ha!” It can be about something you do or something you want to share, an idea or a concept. Just get the feeling of it.

Now, fast forward to that instant – and I know you know what I’m talking about – where doubt starts, where joy leaves, and perhaps (big sign here) you have to start asking everyone else what they think about your idea, and “isn’t it wonderful?” Wasn’t it?

What you’ve just experienced is the Lie (in this case, a common one about worthiness and your own personal joys, the lie being that you cannot have either.) In the moment you allowed everything good to come forth, unimpeded, you were un-believing the Lie.

But, since we’ve conditioned ourselves – and primitive aspects of our brains are wired – to give more attention to “what-can-go-wrong?” (years of practice, I tell you!) we let the Lie ooze back in, sure our high flight could only result in a long fall.

Get a nice easy calm breath and go back to that feeling of “ahhh!” that came with your good moment, there’s just no reason to stay away from it any longer. We’re about to feel a whole lot better… because there’s a simple – maybe not easy, but simple – way to release the hold of the Lie. Dissipate it, gently, and recycle its energy back to the universe.

We make friends with it.

We hold a mirror up to see into our blind spot, where it’s been sitting, and say “what is your name? what do you go by?” Give it a minute (or two, since it’ll need to get past the shock of being noticed, possibly for the first time.) It may have a common name, such as unworthiness or uncertainty. If you’re up to it, stick around for its other – specific – names, the ones known only to you.

There. That’s all for now. What comes next will begin to unfold all on its own: your new ally will, in return for being noticed, begin to reveal why it is there and what it has to teach you. Little insights, and maybe big epiphanies. The little kernel of truth that exists within it – the one that allowed you to believe in it to begin with – will come to light.

Just as darkness, rather than being the opposite of light, is a lack of light; a Lie, rather than being the opposite of Truth, is a lack of Truth. There is always a bit of each contained in the other.

And since a belief is just a thought or an idea we stick with, over and over, until we feel like it’s real, it can always be changed. We feel ‘ick’ in the first place because we have to work very hard to believe things that just don’t feel right to us, that contradict what we know to be true. It is just as easy – and feels so much better – to believe thoughts and ideas that ring true to ourselves. (Not to some unnamed ‘other’. Ourselves.)

So when we’re stopped cold by the Lie that says “we’re not worthy” we can say: “except sometimes we are.” Let that little voice that just sang “hooray!” be heard – and learn to listen for it, too.

When we’re trying so hard to believe the ‘good’ lies but are skeptical because of the “always” part – “the heroes are always good and true” – we can make it possible to erode away skepticism by allowing that, just maybe, “the heroes are always good and true… except when they’re not.” Feels more real. Oh, and human, too. (“hooray!”)

When our heroine believes the Lie that “it will always be hard” – she can soften it by remembering “except when it’s not.” (“hooray!”)

When we start to un-believe, something interesting happens, seemingly all on its own: the very forces that held the Lies in place – in our blind spots, until we noticed them – will be the forces that release them, a bit at a time, until they are transformed. Until we are transformed. Into that which knows only its own joyful in-the-flow creative self.

Into what was there all along. Truth.

(okay, as promised, the TV show was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the episode was called – yep – “Lie to Me.”)