I am considering the kind promise “I will share my strengths compassionately.” The last word in that promise makes all the difference.

Last week, I encouraged myself (and you) to show up in life as is – warts and all – knowing that by revealing our authentic selves, we encourage real and honest connection.

That sounds great in theory, but it’s not always safe.

Scarlett Lewis, mother of Jesse Lewis, who was killed in his first-grade classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, has been quoted as saying “there are two kinds of people in the world: good people and good people in pain.”

If we show up in all our flawed glory, it may increase the chances that someone in pain will hurt us. That wound could be made by anything from a snarky comment to an automatic weapon.

I invite you to apply this promise with compassion for yourself and those around you.

For yourself, share your strengths in ways that:

  • don’t leave you feeling overexposed or at risk.
  • don’t exhaust or overwhelm you.

For others, share your strengths in ways that:

  • leave them strong because they figured it out.
  • use their strengths and skills (or help them develop new ones)
  • don’t do something they don’t want (or do it in a way they don’t want it to be done.)

Simply ask, “how can this experience leave us both feeling stronger?” It’s not something one of us can decide. Answering that question together is the first step in sharing strength.

The phrase “ungrateful wretch” is floating through my mind. When you share your strengths, you are giving someone a gift. As the giver, your job ends as soon as the gift is in the recipient’s hands. What they do with it from then on is not your business. Feeling gratitude for saying “thank you” is polite, but not required. Let it go.

Sharing your strengths with others can bring you into deeper relationship, strengthening ties and lives.

In your journal:

  • List some ways you can share your strengths.
  • Write about a time you gave and regretted it.
  • Write about a time you gave and felt strengthened.
  • Write about receiving.