Shame And Grace Part 4 - The Crossing Of Weakness

Dec 06

Shame And Grace Part 4 - The Crossing Of Weakness

Tue, 12/06/2011 - 06:41 — Thabo Mokete

The place from which one is weakest is also the same point from which one is strongest. The human condition is such that these polar points exist throughout the life of a human being.

The feebleness that one experiences is not always an evil that must be uprooted, but one must find the corresponding strength and cleave to it. This is one of the paradoxical truths about our existence: That weakness and strength share the same root of being. The thing that one might call darkness within is rooted in the same place where his light is rooted.

However, this is not so clear and easy to see when one simply looks at the results of instability in our lives. What we call sins we often attribute to deficiency, and wish that if only we could always be strong. It brings pain and judgment when we see the results that come from acting out of weakness. We would rather not be weak, but be strong. It would be so much better if the imperfection were removed from us. That may then be our prayer.

But things look different when we move beyond the judgment to acceptance. Instead of wanting to stop infirmity at the point at which it erupts, we will want to go deeper to find the truth of the vulnerability, to find the root that feeds the weakness.

That is where the mystery gets very interesting. When we do get to the root of the weakness we are surprised to find that the thing which is our vitality also shares that same root as the feebleness! We realize we cannot remove the root without removing our greatest potency in the process.

Let me make an example with loneliness. It is a gap that is accompanied by pain, from the awareness of being alone. There are some people for whom this pain is acute and unbearable. When they act of out that weakness, they may get into addictions or destructive behaviors that cause them a lot of judgment. They feel judgment within, from the world and from God. That is painful.

However, when we get to the root of loneliness, it gets very surprising. We find that the root of loneliness to is the heart's desire for fulfillment and connection. This is why the heart brings the awareness of being alone, because it is in being alone that one gets fulfilled and connected, by growing in his or her personality. Personal growth happens out of being alone, at the personal centre, not in a crowd.

We find that creativity shares the same root as loneliness, the desire for fulfillment and connection. And it does that by way of solitude. It is mostly in solitude that we travel to the highest level of the personality to create new possibilities and grow.
So if we removed the root of loneliness, which is the heart's desire for fulfillment and connection, we would have removed the root of solitude, automatically cutting off the path of creativity. That thing that one considers to be the root of his or her weakness is actually the fire that propels growth.

So what do we do? We don't want to be hurt by doing things out of vulnerability, yet we also want to grow and be productive beings. How do we reconcile strength and weakness for the best in us? There are at least three levels in which weakness propels our growth and promotes our well-being.

The first one is where instability within compels us to cleave to our strength and settle in that stability. That way when weakness comes, we divert the energy that would have fed our weakness towards our strong arm. This training of the will is no mere human achievement. There is divine guidance and assistance that helps us hold on to our powerhouse. It is the work of grace when we cleave to the light in spite of the darkness that is ever present in us.

One of the great thinkers from the last century, Nikolai Berdyaev1, mentioned an interesting idea about some of Leonardo Da Vinci's paintings. That in some one them,  there was evidently poison in Leonardo when he painted them. But from his weakness he ran towards his strength of creativeness and burned up the poison there. There is a number of stories that allude to personal strife that Leonardo often went through before doing some paintings. The result becomes a beautiful painting nevertheless. This way, weakness becomes food for strength.

People who engage a lot in creativity in this way eventually become aware of the bridge between weakness and strength, down at the root. Between loneliness and solitude. The soul that learns to cleave to solitude and creativity will soon find that when loneliness comes, it becomes something they can handle, the switch to solitude happens more naturally2. Instead of engaging in destructive behavior out of loneliness, the loneliness is turned towards solitude where creativity and growth takes place. This loneliness-solitude is but one example of the strength-weakness bridge.

The second way in which weakness becomes strength in us is found in those moments when we are actually overcome by weakness. We may we act out of the vulnerable state or not, but within we become aware that we have surrendered to that lapse. The whole being is under the spell of the weakness. This may happen during a phase when we feel we are at the heights of health and stability, overcoming our faults. Then, as if out of nowhere, a punch knocks us and brings us down to our knees from the dizzy heights!

This comes as no accident because energy alone is not well-being. Strength and vitality are only part of well-being. It is possible to be strong and not be well. One can be forceful and angry, which is not a combination of well-being. We have seen rulers who were powerful and overcame great opposition, but their might became a sickness to them as they turned to demonic acts of oppression and inhumanity towards their own people.

Strength must humble itself to the fiery light of love. When our steadiness is severed from its own light of love within, we become headstrong towards self-destruction. It is an act of mercy when weakness comes and we fall from our robustness.

One's strength may be physical, financial, moral, intellectual, social or otherwise. They must all be guided by the superior will of God which is expressed in love.

Being vibrant and strong must be in harmony with other aspects of well-being in the soul, such as joy and the love for life. When this harmony is broken, our muscle works towards destroying us. It is the blessing of weakness then that brings us to our knees. It shows us that we are not well, in spite of our strong backbone and vigor. This is the failing that brings us to repentance, the turning of the soul from the darkness and anger of life to the new being which is light and love.

The third level at which weakness promotes well-being in us, is when we have an ever present  flaw that keeps recurring. It does not overcome us, but there is the pain of being impaired, where we can do nothing of it.
This weakness humbles us in spite of our tenacity. It shows us that the energy given to us is not given so we can be self-sufficient but so we can be fruitful creatively for the benefit of the whole world, the whole cosmos and for the glory of God.

It shows us that our survival and energy supply comes to us not originally from within our selves but from a universal source that is poured from above. To put it in another way, a tree branch get its supply of energy from the main stem, which itself is dependent on the root.

On our own, we can do nothing3, that's what weakness tells us at that lowest level. We must depend more on divine energy and be guided by divine will in spite of the muscle we may have developed in us. There will never come a moment when we are good alone, separated from the divine source.

At the point of weakness then we are reminded to let the grace of God work freely in us. To let it run the full course in us: To renew4 our strength and guide us to the light. Not to remove all our enemies5, but to deliver us from evil6.

1. Berdyaev, Nikolai. The Meaning of The Creative Act. London: Semantron Press, 2009.
2. Tillich, Paul. The Eternal Now. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons , 1963.
3. John 15:5
4. Isaiah 40:31
5. Psalm 23:4,5
6. Matthew 6:13; John 17:15