I am not unique in that I grew up in a family where my “strengths in excess” were commented on more often than my strengths used well. I was, sort of, always in trouble. And, often, deservedly so.
I never really had a teacher (with the significant exception of Miss Ethyl Lee Rehms in the 5th grade) who championed my abilities or made me feel like a stand out in any area. I was placed between two strong soprano voices in high school concert choir so I could experience “the depth of one and the quality of the other.” The result? I couldn’t hear myself. No guidance counselor or family member or relative ever sat down with me to discuss my future or to tell me I could succeed… in anything.
Mainly, I got scolded for what I didn’t do.
As I was beginning to discover some ways I could succeed (retail sales, living independently, going back to school at Texas Tech full-time while working full-time), I met Dave and we got married (just about that quickly). He loved my strengths—loved my out-spokeness, my decisiveness, my strong will, my concern for others, my humor, my willingness to take risks. We are a pretty good team; noticing and commenting on and enjoying what we each did well.
Then… we found ourselves -chose to be there, I presume, without full knowledge or wisdom and definitely against some counsel from family- in a church that focused on our lacks. There were meetings and discussions around, mostly, my weaknesses. I was too opinionated, too independent, too loud, too questioning. I actually tried to be quiet for a while… it was not good. Our home was weird, not real, not happy, not celebrating the strengths that were each of ours.
I gave up being quiet and started talking again.
There came a day, later, that I more fully shed that bag of burdens. I stopped carrying around all the ways I was not gifted, not able, not interested. I started recognizing that I was not “God’s first mistake” with only weaknesses and lacks. I studied behavior style and personality and started teaching DiSC workshops and I began helping other people discover their strengths. I separated myself from the negative influences and started looking for ways to be a blessing. I started using my strengths.
In my studying, I learned a deep truth that I share anytime I can. It is that we need to know our strengths so we can develop them to be a benefit to others. If I am always focused on trying to be strong where I am weak, it is a severe misuse of my energy and of the time I have been given. If I recognize and learn to maximize my strengths, it is a wonderful use of what has been given me and an investment that will bring much more substantial reward than trying to be something I am not… and never will be.
We need to know our strengths so we can develop them to be a benefit to others.
Someone commented the other day that I am always happy. You know, I am. I am still strong willed and opinionated and a risk taker. I still make decisions without all the information, at times. Still would rather focus on the beginning and the process than the details and the rules. Granted, there is a lot of experience and wisdom and maturity that I have now that I didn’t thirty years ago. But, I know that learning to maximize my strengths and manage my weaknesses is a better way to success.
What stories do you have about someone championing your strengths?