I have spent a number of years feeling guilty.
You see, I need to get in better shape. But, I really dislike working out at the gym. The thought of getting up in the morning to go for a run simply isn’t appealing. I used a treadmill for a year or so—as a clothes hanger. You get the picture. I’ve tried, and failed, at any number of exercise routines that I simply didn’t enjoy. None of them stuck. They only succeeded in making me feel guilty.
A couple of months ago, my wife (who is much smarter and more perceptive than me) said, “You love to swim. Why don’t you get a membership at the YMCA and start swimming?”
I’ve been going several times a week. My stamina has increased tenfold. And, between swims, I actually look forward to getting back in the water.
What was the difference? I’ve found an activity that plays to my strengths and preferences and I’ve given up trying to incorporate unenjoyable activities in areas of personal weakness.
What does all of this have to do with serving?
I have regularly struggled to find a balance between maximizing my strengths and shoring up my weaknesses, especially at work. There are things I love about what I do. I gravitate toward opportunities that are in my wheelhouse. I’ll almost always respond in the affirmative to invitations to do these things. But, there are other tasks I simply dread. I’ve tried to improve in these areas. But, mustering the necessary motivation is like trying to wade through a pool of molasses.
My experience swimming laps has made me reflect on an important question:
What if I spent much less time feeling guilty about my weaknesses and, instead, spent that time actually maximizing my strengths?
I believe we’d see great results—in all areas of life: ministry, work, marriage, parenting, relationships, and more—from forgetting about weaknesses and maximizing strengths.
Three benefits of maximizing strengths
1. More enjoyment
It’s just more fun to do things that I love, to play to my God-given strengths. And, life’s too short to be chained to a role or task that’s become a ball and chain.
2. Greater output
I’ll never produce as much working in an area of weakness as I could working in an area of strength. It just makes sense. But, how many times do we work ourselves to the bone trying to produce when we know we’re simply not wired for the task? Focus on the things you love, your areas of strength, and build all you can with all you have in you. You’ll be surprised at how much you’re capable of producing.
3. Deeper relationships
Maximizing strengths, and understanding the strengths of the people with whom I’m partnered, can lead to greater depth in our relationships. Whether it’s at work, in the community, at church, or at home, knowing the strengths of the people with whom I’m working keeps me from forming unrealistic expectations of them, increases my appreciation of their unique contributions, and helps me to value them for who they are. And, bringing my strengths into my relationships gives others a chance to appreciate me in the same way.
Before moving on, there are three qualifications I feel I need to make:
First, we’re not talking about moral weaknesses here. These must be dealt with swiftly, decisively, honestly, and with the help of godly friends. Second, this doesn’t give us an excuse to beg out of the tedious tasks that all jobs, roles, and relationships require of us. We still have to be responsible for the little things while being mindful that we lean into areas of giftedness and strength. Finally, this shouldn’t give us an out when it comes to trying new things. We should be excited to try new things even if we think they might not be in an area of strength. You just never know what you might end up loving.
What about you?
What weaknesses have you been determined to bolster up? Which of your strengths have you been neglecting? What changes do you need to make to move into a place where you’re maximizing strengths?