Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words
My wife, my parents, and I took a personality test tonight just for kicks. It was a simplified test, nothing too in-depth, but was very entertaining and insightful. There were two sections to the test: one with a row of strengths under four different personalities and another with a row of weaknesses for those same personality types.
For all of us, it took quite a while to complete the strengths sections; it took probably less than a minute to complete the weaknesses section. It’s a lot easier to readily admit and focus on our flaws and faults than it is to honestly acknowledge our strengths.
Maybe it’s because we’re hesitant to praise ourselves (this isn’t always a bad thing, but we tend to overdo it). Maybe it’s because it’s easier to see our glaring weaknesses than our helpful strengths. Weaknesses usually sound something like, “I am… ” or, “I have…” or, “I can’t…” or, “I’m not…” followed by a negative attribute.
Focusing on our weaknesses is detrimental for two primary reasons.
First, focusing on weakness restricts growth. Even when pointing out some major issues with the church at Philippi, Paul lays on the praise heavily before exposing flaws. When he wrote to Timothy to rebuke him (II Timothy) he made sure to point out his strengths, too. We have to be balanced as we look to improve ourselves. We can acknowledge the presence of a weakness, but focusing on it will likely destroy any effort we make to grow past it.
Secondly, focusing on our weaknesses can be selfish. We can place a disproportionate emphasis on ourselves when we criticize self or lean on weakness as a crutch/excuse. It can also be selfish because while we’re overanalyzing and criticizing ourselves, we can easily overlook growth opportunities.
Strengths allow us to do for others. Focusing on what we can do and we are good at doing empowers us to help others. Obsessing over our weaknesses can make us too internally focused; capitalizing on our strong points allows us to focus more on other people.
When we do a mental self-checkup to see where we can improve, let’s focus more on how we can use our strengths to help others and less on how flawed we are. Of course we’re flawed – but we can also do a lot of good for others and we have the blood of Jesus to keep us pure (I John 1.7). As a wise man once told me, “If you focus on your strengths, your weaknesses will take care of themselves.”