Most strengths have a corresponding weakness

I have a friend who thinks clearly and is very organized, competent, and productive. Amazingly so. These are commendable strengths; but sometimes these strengths cause stress in his relationships. His view of the world is so tight that he’s often impatient with people and vague processes. He’ll comment on the tiniest departure from his ideal. Mistakes are unacceptable. At home and work, perfection is the standard. While his strengths are notable, they come with drawbacks.

The principle I want to discuss is: Strengths often have an inherent downside; the advantage they bring is accompanied by a disadvantage. Most strengths have a corresponding weakness.  

A similar challenge exists with virtues. Every virtue must be balanced by another, different virtue or it can get out of balance. The Stoic philosophers had a term for this—anacoluthia—the mutual entailment of the virtues; no virtue is a virtue by itself. For instance, notice how each of these virtues needs to be balanced by another virtue: confidence/humility, caution/boldness, patience/urgency, passion/detachment, openness/discretion, generosity/thriftiness, self-control/spontaneity. 

Perhaps you are:

  • Confident but lack humility.
  • Generous, to a fault. 
  • Cautious, but stymied by passivity.
  • Logical but often emotionally insensitive.

Sometimes we have difficulty seeing where we’re out of balance. Ask your spouse or friends to list your strengths and corresponding weaknesses. 

Here are some practical applications of this discussion:

  1. While functioning in your strength, be careful to avoid the corresponding weakness.
  2. Affirm other people’s strengths and extend grace to them relative to their weaknesses. 
  3. I’m not suggesting that you disavow your strengths or sideline your strengths until you  eliminate the corresponding weaknesses. Just being aware of the weaknesses will be helpful. 
  4. Affirm other people’s strengths and, when appropriate, rely on them to compensate for your weaknesses.

Action item — List your strengths. Then write down weaknesses that may be inexorably linked to those strengths.

Discussion question — Can a weakness that accompanies a strength be totally eliminated or just tempered?

16 Replies to “Most strengths have a corresponding weakness”

      1. Hi Don. Thanks for your test. I’m still thinking about my reply. Maybe that’s a part of the test. Ha!

  1. While we all try to be balanced individuals, our strengths sometimes can come on too strong and we must recognize where others are in their life.

    1. Scott, that’s a keen insight. When our strengths become overbearing they can become a liability. Take care, Don

  2. Excellent thought! I’ve always tried to remember “everything in moderation “! A strength that is “over-used” can quickly become a weakness! Thanks, Don! Dick D

    1. Dick, thanks for taking the time to write. I love the word moderation; it’s one of the keys to successful living and management. Take care, Don

  3. Don
    Early in my career my work group would invite folks to come in and do workshops that might enhance our toolkit in working with our in-house clients. At the time, I was Director of Organization Development for my company. We invite a west coast trainer named Elias Porter to come in and share his toolkit. He called it the strength deployment inventory. A series of questions were answered by each participant. The answers allowed him to position each of us on a triangle. Most
    Of my group was clustered close to one another. I was the lone outlier. My first thought was “I knew it- I’m in the wrong place”. Elias had a different take and asked me and the group to consider why I was the loner. His conclusion was that as the “boss” I was called to bring different strengths to the group, namely leadership skills vs process skills. He also cautioned us that the overplaying of strengths constituted a weakness. Later on, as new opportunities arose I was much more comfortable in leaving the womb of the “process” world and climbing the management ladder. I’m very grateful for his observations in that workshop.

    1. David, what a great story. Thanks for sharing. I love the phrase “overplaying of strengths constituted a weakness.” I also appreciate your delineation of process-world and management-world; they are entirely different. Take care, Don.

  4. Thank you for this post; it is wonderful!

    A weakness that accompanies a strength cannot be totally eliminated. Because we are human, we will always have weaknesses. However, we do have the ability to grow and can thus temper our weaknesses.

    1. Jamee, good insight. Our weaknesses remain with us, but if we recognize them we can have more control over them. Take care, Don

  5. Don, what immediately came to mind was my husband’s praise that I am a “researcher.” I always begin with a specific subject for which I want information or helps. The corresponding weakness is that I end up spending too much time moving from place to place on the internet, often veering from the original subject, to the neglect of other tasks. There’s so much interesting stuff to learn! I like your giving the 2-part exercise at the end here. It’s a prod to be focused in using our strengths, while being mindful to work on the corresponding weakness. I am glad that God continues to chip away at us! (The goal being, the image of His Son.)

    1. Sharon, thanks for sharing your struggle. The internet is wonderful in that it opens to us the entire world, but it’s a trap in that it opens to us the entire world :). You have a good, curious mind; don’t forfeit that, but learn a balance. Take care, Don

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