We all have strengths. We all have weaknesses. We interact all the time with those whose strengths line up with our weaknesses and whose weaknesses line up with our strengths. This is the wisdom of God to guard us from the myopia and foibles our weaknesses produce.
This is also God's wisdom to kick up quite a bit of interpersonal criticism and conflict. When another has strengths where I am weak, they can help and warn and come alongside me and be a great blessing. Constructive criticism and cooperation is necessary and good. But our criticism can be (and often is) bad. And destructive.
For example, when you are working with someone like this, it's very easy to "read them" through the lens of your strengths. You are a good leader. They are a good servant. You are organized and a good planner. They are disorganized but will flexibly meet any need at the drop of a hat.
If you read them through the lens of your strengths, you will see only their weaknesses. In fact, their weaknesses will be magnified by your lens. And you will judge and criticize and become impatient and irritated with them on account of their poor leadership or organizational inferiority. Might there be reason to challenge or encourage them to growth? Of course! But not before you do it with the right lenses on.
The right lenses come from taking a honest look at yourself. You may be a good leader, but you may not be the most willing servant. You may be organized and a good planner, but you may not be the most flexible or patient person you've ever met. If you view others through the filter of your weaknesses, then you're ready to dialogue about their growth edges, with the right disposition and approach.
Or, flip it around. You may be a good servant. You may be willing to give people the shirt off your back. You'll drop everything to help someone in need. You end up working with someone who doesn't seem to have the same level of willing concern for others. They seem to say 'no' way too easily. If you read them through the lens of your strengths, their weaknesses will be magnified. You will judge and criticize and become impatient and irritated with them on account of their "lack of love" and "comfortably organized life." Might there be reason to challenge or encourage them to growth? Of course! But not before you do it with the right lenses on.
The right lenses come from taking a honest look at yourself. You may be flexible and responsive to needs, but you are given to people pleasing and not good at saying the hard thing when it needs to be said. You may be willing to give people the shirt off your back, but you don't plan or manage your own life very well, often frustrating people by your forgetfulness or disorganization. If you view others through the filter of your weaknesses, then you're ready to dialogue about growth edges, with the right disposition and approach.
We all have weaknesses. We all tend to downplay them. We also tend to up-play the weaknesses of others. We need to SEE our tendency to do this. And we need to see and be reminded of our weaknesses. None of us is omni-competent. None of us is without sin. Once we have that clearly in view, we're in the right place to address another's weaknesses. We will look at their weaknesses through the lens of our weaknesses, not through the lens of our strengths. We will be ready to treat them with the same understanding and honor and benefit-of-the-doubt that we want (and need!) to be given.
How do we SEE like this? Jesus showed us.
Matthew 7:1 "Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.At the bottom of all of this is the need for gospel grace to saturate our souls. We need that grace down deep, for deep-seated personal security. We're totally accepted by God through Christ. Warts and weaknesses and all. Without that gospel governing our daily perspective, we will inevitably seek to establish a standard of relative righteousness for our own (self) justification. We will need to vindicate ourselves by means of our sacrifice or service or success. We will look to our own performance and then look around to compare ourselves with others. And we will look down on and condemn those who don't measure up to our standards.
"I'm working so hard, why can't they...?"
"I've had to make so many sacrifices, he hasn't even...!"
"What is so hard about...?!"We will necessarily be focused on our strengths and successes, because we have to be. We won't be honest about our weaknesses and failures, because we dare not be. We will necessarily be focused on the weaknesses and failures of others, because the strengths of others magnify to us our weaknesses. In our pride, that bugs us. And so we want the spotlight to stay on their weaknesses, rather than thanking God for their strengths. If the grace of the gospel isn't saturating your soul, you'll necessarily be insecure and on the lookout for inferiors to prop up your fragile self-worth.
But when the gospel of grace saturates us to the core...everything changes.
We've embraced the fact that we're sinful and we've failed and we're broken and weak. We've received the acceptance and approval of God through Christ. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. There's nothing to hide. There's no need to hide. We are loved and accepted not based on our performance or success, but on the basis of Jesus' victorious life and in-my-place death.
We know who we are -- more sinful than we ever dared admit; more loved than we ever dared dream.
We know we are still imperfect. We know we are not omni-competent. Only Jesus is. And so we graciously, patiently work with other imperfect people (like us!), looking humbly through eyes that are so often filled with "logs."
And we begin thanking God for the strengths of others, even when they magnify our weaknesses. And we view the weaknesses of others through the lens of our weaknesses. "I'm so glad she is strong where I am weak! Thank you, Lord, for how you've made us all with different strengths and weaknesses. We need you. We need each other. We are not you. You alone are perfect. And you are so gracious and patient with us imperfect people!"
Lord, have mercy and help us see!