peeled tangerineLast Friday I planned to write about discovering our strengths. Instead, I was sidelined by a three-day migraine. Sometimes we find our strengths by taking character tests or paying attention to activities that make our hearts sing. My return to what a fellow migraine sufferer calls “the cave of pain” reminded me that sometimes strength is revealed by looking at what is left when certainties are peeled away.

I Don’t Want to Lose What I Think Makes Me Strong

The monthly newsletter I published at the beginning of this month had “weakness” as its theme. A few people unsubscribed. Maybe it was a coincidence, but I wondered if dwelling in weakness was uncomfortable for people. It certainly was uncomfortable for me!

Yet, my life invites me to learn from both weakness and strength.

It’s easy to feel destroyed if I feel like I’m losing what made me strong. How do I find healing amidst what feels like loss?

When we peel a vegetable, we remove the woody, flavorless outer coverings to get at the sweet, soft flesh. When it’s our lives that are being peeled, it’s easy to imagine we are losing our strength. That outer shell, so carefully tended, was what kept us together! We want it back. Sometimes we want it so badly, we keep the broken pieces of our former lives clutched tightly to us. Hanging on to what we think is strength, we are oblivious as our sweetness rots away.

Instead, we need to let go of what we thought were strengths, recognize the nourishing softness that remains and share it with those around us.

Finding Healing Amidst Lost

The good news is that it is not up to me to decide what parts I need to hang onto and what parts I need to let go. Healing is about offering all of  it.

In my household, the peels of fruits and vegetables go in the composter and we eat the inner flesh. One way or another, it nourishes. Similarly, in my life, I can offer all of me – strength and weakness – as a growth
medium for others.

Buddhists have a practice called “dedicating the merits.” Using it, I dedicate (for instance) anything good arising from my meditation session toward awakening for all beings. I don’t have to identify what good came from my meditation; whatever it was, I offer it.

Christianity, too, suggests that whatever I am experiencing can be offered to God and that it is not up to me to decide what’s good or bad about it. (Take My Life and Let It Be)

I have been joyfully following the career of Brené Brown as she offers evidence for and popularizes the notion that vulnerability leads to compassion. In the same way, being tender with weakness leads naturally to sharing our strengths.

How can we offer ourselves in a way that helps others grow?