I once told somebody that I no longer focus on my weaknesses and they looked at me like I’m crazy. We were out running a trail on a section that was pretty difficult in that there were no flat places to run for like six or seven miles. Everything was either up or down, a winding path through the forest, a couple of stream crossings and just one of those trails where it didn’t take a major effort to run it but you had to keep your mind on the run, stay focused on the trail. As we finished that stretch and he looked at me complimenting me on how well I had done it, I told him I could because I no longer focused on my weaknesses as a runner but was simply focusing on my strengths. He looked at me like I was an alien and then said the thing that I know everybody is thinking now, “How are you ever going to be a better runner if you don’t concentrate on getting better at what you’re weak at?” And that is when I looked at him and said “because my weaknesses are part of who I am, they are put in me because there are other people who are strong at my weaknesses. It is my job to learn from those who are stronger at my weaknesses to improve them but it is not my job to try to strengthen them. My job is to strengthen my strengths and let the abilities of others improve my weaknesses.” I approach my job in the same way. I know that I am a strong sales person, negotiator and relationship builder. I also know I am not strong in daily operations, organization and details. Therefore I don’t spend a lot of time trying to strengthen my weaknesses, but spend an inordinate amount of time studying how to become better at my strengths and then rely on the team that surrounds me to be strong in my weaknesses. In a corporation this makes people uncomfortable because corporate structure assigns job titles and then expects that job title to do everything themselves. This leaves little room for team building and often in a corporate environment leaves the corporation with really strong operations but weak sales. This happens because it is easy to work on the operations side, it doesn’t require people skills or negotiating, it simply requires knowing how to count or manipulate a computer properly. I find the same is true in running and many other walks of life. We tend to gravitate towards trying to improve our weaknesses because it is easier to spend large amounts of time improving something we are not good at than it does to strengthen and improve areas we are already good at. I really don’t know why this is but I believe if we all started assessing where we spend our time we would find this mostly true.
Paul had this same problem. He had a weakness, something so debilitating that asked God three times to take it away from him. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” There is a subtle little switch in the language there and it may be hard to pick up. For when I am weak, then I am strong. I know this may seem to contradict my suggestion that concentrating on my strengths is more important than concentrating on my weaknesses, but please notice one thing. Paul is delighting in weaknesses and in hardships and difficulties. He acknowledges these are all there and he acknowledges that this is where God’s grace is made perfect. God’s power is made perfect not in my strengths but in my weakness. That is why I could concentrate on my weaknesses (and they are legion) all I want to, every single moment of every single day of my life and it is not going to make one iota of difference. My weaknesses are made perfect in God’s strength but I would never know that if I didn’t strive to do things that would show my weaknesses. If all I ever did were things that are right in my wheelhouse, that fit into my strengths I will never know what my weaknesses are. This is why I love the ultra distances in running because at some point you are going to run past your strengths and you are going to have to discover where you are weak. I am a weak downhiller and technical trail runner. It doesn’t mean I avoid them like the plague, rather that I accept them and work on my strengths. I am a good uphiller and I have learned and continue to learn new techniques and strength building exercises to get better at the uphill. With every uphill I carry out though I know that I am going to have to tap into a strength I don’t possess to get through the downhill. However, I still go out and hit those trails simply because I know the One who can get me through my weaknesses. I may hurt, I may have to slide down on my butt sometimes, exhibiting no grace whatsoever but I will get through it and hit the next uphill strong and confidently knowing I am working on this strength. I know that I can run longer than anybody else, not faster because the fast gene passed me by, but I can go longer than most because I am working on my endurance with gladness knowing that my weakness, the lacking fast gene, is already covered by the grace and power of God.
So what are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Acknowledge your weaknesses and find ways to get involved in the areas you are weak so you can see the strength and power of God at work in your life. Then get out and live an ultra life by working on your strengths to make them stronger and letting your weaknesses be picked up by somebody else’s strength.