thoughts from oak park community

belonging in our weakness

A simple thought for today, sparked from reading Vanier’s Becoming Human:

“If we deny our weakness and the reality of death, if we want to be powerful and strong always, we deny a part of our being, we live an illusion. To be human is to accept who we are, this mixture of strength and weakness. To be human is to accept and love others just as they are. To be human is to be bonded together, each with our weaknesses and strengths, because we need each other. Weakness, recognized, accepted, and offered, is at the heart of belonging, so it is at the heart of communion with another.”

In a culture obsessed with winning and success, these words don’t really go with the flow. You’re not going to find them on an inspirational poster. These words will not serve as the prologue to strength finder 3.0. And yet, there is something really intuitive about them, right? There is something within us that longs to be accepted and known for all of who we are, including our weaknesses. We may be terrified by that thought–but the desire is there.

In fact I would guess that the desire is more than there. I would guess that the desire is paramount. Because it is true what Vanier says, that it is at the heart of communion with another.

But we don’t go around introducing ourselves by answering the standard “what we do” question with a list of things we do poorly. We hide our weaknesses, and then reveal them slowly as intimacy grows–sometimes. Or we just continue to try to hide them from others as well as ourselves. But true communion, true community, and true intimacy cannot happen that way. So we have a spouse or a few close friends that reach that level, but we deny others our weaknesses, and therefore deny them ourselves.

I am reminded of a community whose motto is that they aim to disappoint. That doesn’t mean that they don’t do good things or work hard at them. But they refuse to fall into the trap of competition and expectation, trying to bolster themselves up in the eyes of others by all their good works. They first offer their weakness. And not out of false humility. It is refreshing. They don’t feel like they have to prove themselves to others. In this freedom they somehow belong to others because it doesn’t set them apart as doing some great work that only holy saints can do. In offering their weakness, they can be accepted because it is the same weakness we know we have within ourselves.

What does it look like to offer our weakness to others? What does it mean to accept another, or ourselves for that matter, not based on what they have to offer or their strengths, but because of their weaknesses?

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