News flash! Humans are fallible! We make all kinds of mistakes every day. We say the wrong thing at the wrong time, think we know the answer when we’re dead wrong, lose control of our emotions, disrespect or misuse authority, lack humility and charity, demean others through word and deed, care too little, care too much, and a host of other failings. We even make mistakes in our own self-evaluations. Some people aren’t critical enough, glossing over their own faults or justifying them by pointing out more obvious faults they see around them. Others are overly critical; condemning themselves for every single minor mistake and failing to see their own goodness. Sometimes it appears unbelievable that we’ve been able to build functioning societies with the host of astonishing comforts we enjoy today when we make so many poor decisions so often. To make a long paragraph short – there is some irony for you as it has already been written – we have weaknesses.
Consider all the trouble we have today, just based on our own weaknesses. We can dispense with the ill-intentioned for now as there is plenty of trouble to review just based on our own fallacies. We harm ourselves far more often than others harm us. Humans have amazing potential but living up to it has proven to be the ultimate difficulty. As a small example, look at how we use our time. We could learn so many more skills and refine so many more attributes if we didn’t waste so much time. We all know this but our weakness in resolve is placed on full display as we try to change our habits. It’s difficult. The trouble doesn’t end with what we do to ourselves, either. Our weaknesses and failings cause trouble and difficulty for those around us as well. Consider the impact our unfulfilled commitments have on others. Sometimes they are left unfulfilled because we forgot or lacked the resolve to finish a task. Other times, we can’t fulfill a commitment because a tool we need – such as a vehicle – breaks; highlighting yet another human weakness in being able to make reliable products. Our poor choices and weaknesses create massive burdens on ourselves, and those around us.
This is a rather dismal way to begin an article that includes the word ‘opportunity’ in the title, so let’s turn the narrative around. There are two main issues here that we need to deal with. The first is a person’s individual weaknesses that create difficulties for themselves and the second is individual weaknesses that create difficulties for others.
When we consider our own individual failings, it is easy to feel worthless and hopeless. We sometimes wonder, “How could we ever accomplish anything great when we have so many weaknesses to overcome?” I believe we ought to turn that phrase around a bit to give us some more hope. “How could we ever accomplish anything great without something to overcome?”
We cannot conceive of something ‘great’ unless we can also conceive of something ‘terrible’ in opposition. Accomplishing something ‘great’ is only as good as not accomplishing it would be ‘terrible’. To put that in the context of our own weaknesses, we can only become ‘good’ or ‘great’ when we also have the ability to become something ‘bad’ or ‘terrible’. The potential you have to make poor choices is a necessary condition for you to become something great.
To help conceptualize this idea, consider what it takes to be physically fit or mentally agile. To create a lifetime of physical fitness or mental agility, it takes continuous effort to overcome a lot of natural inclinations. It’s easy to think, “Just one day off won’t hurt” or “I’ve done such a good job for so long, I deserve a break.” When problems outside of our control occur – such as illness or injury – it is easy to lose a good habit and fall into bad ones. Being physically fit or mentally agile is only as great as being willfully unhealthy or ignorant is terrible. If everyone could run 25 miles without working at it, it’s not a great accomplishment. The greatness comes in direct relation to the effort required.
Your weaknesses are therefor preconditions for your greatness. You can only be as great as the effort required to get there. The next time you are tempted to be frustrated by a weakness you find in yourself, remember that it is an opportunity. It is greatness waiting to happen.
We can use a very similar formula when we think about troubles or difficulties in our lives due to the weaknesses and failings of others around us. When someone else’s poor choices have placed us in a difficult situation, it can be tempting criticize them. In many cases the criticism is justified. The better question to consider though is, “Is the criticism helpful?” More often than not, no amount of criticism is going to change the current circumstances of a bad situation. “What’s done is done” as it has been said before.
I have seen people become involved in organizations with the express desire of “making a difference”, but as soon as the path to what they consider to be “making a difference” gets cluttered by others’ poor choices, they stop all positive efforts and throw more gum into the wheels of progress with their criticism. They want to make sure everyone knows that it was others’ poor choices that are preventing them from making the impact they wanted to. Don’t blame them if things aren’t going right.
We need to turn these concepts around. Instead of thinking, “Look at what a mess these people have made of this” we ought to think, “Look at what a great opportunity we have to make a difference.” It seems self-evident to say, “You can only make a difference if there is a difference to be made” but I don’t believe we consider that idea very often. You wanted to get involved so that you could make a difference. Did you think it would be easy? Are we really accomplishing anything great if all that we have to do to accomplish it is to show up? There will be no great differences to be made in places where everything is running as it is supposed to.
This same principle is true in our everyday lives. Even when we haven’t sought an opportunity to make a difference in a group or organization, our lives our filled with our interactions with groups and organizations. Everyday, we are put in a circumstance that isn’t as great as it could be, due many times to others’ actions and choices. If our response is to point and complain, the situation won’t change, and we will have soured our own outlook for that day as well as those around who get to hear our complaining. If, however, we view the difficult situation as an opportunity, we not only improve our own outlook as well as those around us, but we can also make a positive impact on the difficult situation. Differences are made in troubled waters, not calm seas.
Weakness in ourselves and others give us opportunities to be great. Our weaknesses do not hinder our greatness. They effectuate it.
At Believe, we are working to change the world, for good. We are a community of people who are willing to work and help one another. We would love to have you join us. The world may never be the same.