One of the most profoundly freeing truths to understand about relationships is that our weaknesses are simply our strengths overdone and on display. When people are inconveniently not like me, they can become really frustrating. Unfortunately, I have no choice but to see everyone through my filter and value system; and it takes real discipline not to judge people using my values as the most valuable.
We all like to function in our areas of strength. We naturally behave, or live in ways where people affirm our worth. The problem comes when we don’t know how to control our strengths. Our greatest strengths, taken to extremes, become our biggest weaknesses. That’s why it hurts so much when we receive criticism from someone who isn’t like us. They are usually attacking the areas in our lives we feel particularly good about. Maybe some examples might help:
People who are good at details are often judged as “anal.”
People who are sensitive are often judged as unstable.
People who are private and introverted are often judged as disinterested.
People who are sociable are often judged as attention seeking.
People who are confident are often judged as arrogant.
People who are soft and amiable are often judged as flakey.
And the list goes on...
All of these are our strengths, the gifts God has given us. But, our very strengths—overdone—become our weaknesses and opportunities for conflict. So how do we respond?
First of all, I have to continue to learn how to control and use my strengths. I have to see my gifts as just part of what a group needs. I need to learn the boundaries where my strengths are misused or taken to extremes.
Secondly, I have to work really hard to take my filters off. When someone frustrates me, I must stop and ask why. I have to identity what strength is at work in this person’s life…and see it as a strength.
When I can turn my frustrations with people into appreciations for their strengths, I will be the one most free and at peace.