Has anyone else noticed that we can be a little bit hard on the people we love the most? Sometimes it feels that the closest of friends can spend more time talking about the things that annoy them about those they love than the things that they admire?
More often than not, the failings of our friends and colleagues and our partners will annoy us much more than the failings of anyone else around us. Why are they so slow? Why are they so bad with money? Why does it take them so long to tell an anecdote? Why can’t they figure out how to use their smart phone properly? And we’ll spend so much time looking for answers to why this is the case.
It’s at these moments that it might be worthwhile considering ‘The Weakness of Strength’ theory. This theory dictates that we should strive to see people’s weaknesses as the inevitable downside of certain merits that drew us to them, and from which we will benefit at other times (even if none of these benefits are apparent right now). This theory states that what we’re seeing are not their faults, pure and simple, but rather the shadow side of things that we are genuinely impressed by. We’re picking up on weaknesses derived from strengths.
Every strength at each of has, necessarily brings with it a weakness of which it is an inherent part. This theory suggests that it is impossible to have strengths without weaknesses.
Here’s an example. For a long time I’ve been a person who has always tried to look for the good in other people. For a long time I had assumed this was a strength. It’s allowed me to be reasonably kind and empathetic towards people. But the flip side is that such nicety in certain situations can allow others to take advantage of me at times. In essence, this weakness comes from my own perceived strength. We can choose to look at weaknesses as ugly parts of ourselves, but weaknesses or imperfections are just as innate as our strengths. It may not be possible to have one without another.
Sometimes if I can connect myself with this theory, it offers a new perspective on things. Rather than question how I came to be friends with this person - who is really pissing me off in the moment, with their lack of punctuality and incredible indleness – I can attempt to meet it with a declaration of their strengths – their playfulness, sense of adventure and spontaneity. Sometimes we can get so caught up with a person’s weakness that we forget their strengths, the attributes that drew us to the person in the first place. In the face of weakness, let’s try to keep the strengths in view.
The theory can help us in times of crisis when we just can’t help but see the flaws in the people we’ve chosen to associate with. In times of relational crisis our minds tend to hive off the strengths and see the weaknesses as some weird and freakish add on. But it may just be all part and parcel.
The best part of this theory though is that it undermines that pesky little idea in the back of our minds that somewhere out there, if we maybe just look a little bit harder, there’s a person who can fulfil all our needs. A person who will always be perfect to be around. When, in truth, that person does not exist.
We are imperfect beings, inherently so, and the theory helps us understand this better. We will meet people with a whole new array of strengths but this will inevitably come with a whole new litany of weaknesses. The theory calms us down, reminding us softly that perfect people are like baby unicorns dancing on rainbows; a really nice idea, but something that simply does not exist.