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:
- While functioning in your strength, be careful to avoid the corresponding weakness.
- Affirm other people’s strengths and extend grace to them relative to their weaknesses.
- 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.
- Affirm other people’s strengths and, when appropriate, rely on them to compensate for your weaknesses.