From a very young age, I have been told that becoming the best means maximizing strengths and improving weaknesses. It always seemed like a good strategy. NBA great Michael Jordan said, “My attitude is that if you push me toward something that you think is a weakness, then I will turn that perceived weakness into a strength.” Jordan was arguably the best at this. We all, to one degree or another, spend time turning our weaknesses into strengths.
But how many of us would admit that we can also turn strengths into weaknesses? Most of us don’t even think this is possible. But beware, strong one. If you’re not careful, your strengths can quickly become weaknesses without warning.
When you take a personal strength to the extreme, it’s likely to become a weakness. Oftentimes you can’t see it; after all, you’ve been told to maximize your strengths. But unguarded strength can cause a blind spot, deceiving you to believe you’re doing the right thing.
Here’s a personal example: My greatest strength is passion. However, when I have too much passion, I become overbearing. I can believe in where we need to go and what we need to do so much, I crowd out the opinions of others. With my extreme passion, I don’t value others’ input and wisdom. In my attempt to lead and mobilize others around a great project or idea, I can actually end up discouraging the group. My passion, fueled by a will-not-be-denied persistence, can wear people out along the way.
Obviously, that’s never my intention. But when our strengths are out of balance or used in excess, they end up having a negative effect. It’s troubling to think that what we’re best at or the gifts God has blessed us with can become a weakness.
Now I have learned that an unguarded strength is a double weakness. When a friend challenged me with this powerful principle, I quickly thought about several strengths I had not guarded. Over time, I had become lazy with my strengths and not kept them in check. A strength, gift or skill cannot only lose its impact, but it can also take you down.
Moses gives us a great example of how an unguarded strength can become a double weakness. God had a special relationship with Moses; many times, Moses actually heard God speak. When He first asked Moses to step up and set the Israelites free, Moses was timid and lacked confidence in his ability to speak boldly. But over time, Moses saw God use him to do miraculous things and he grew in confidence.
But, one day God told Moses to “speak to that rock” to bring water to his people who were wandering in the desert, thirsty and tired of the trek toward the Promised Land. Moses made a grave mistake and relied on himself.
The Lord said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink,” (Numbers 20:7–8, NIV). Moses basically said, “I got this,” and he struck the rock twice with his staff instead of speaking to it like God said. Moses didn’t obey and depend on God’s power. The entire nation paid the price and God disciplined Moses. He was not the leader who took them into the Promised Land.
When we are confident in our strengths, we lose dependence on God. We start to believe we don’t really need Him, and we try to do everything on our own. We begin trusting in ourselves instead of trusting God to work in us and through us. Even though it appears to work sometimes, trusting in ourselves and our abilities will eventually lead us to dry, empty places and the end of our capability.
There are two keys to making sure a strength remains a strength: balance and blessing.
First, our strengths must have balance. Every good and perfect gift comes from God. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 12:4 (MSG), “God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit.” We must find something that balances, stabilizes, and maximizes our gifts. With awareness and accountability, our strengths will be a blessing. Without this, they become a burden.
It’s dangerous when there is:
- Work without rest
- Passion without humility
- Speaking without listening
- Compassion without truth
- Conviction without forgiveness
- Friendship without accountability
- Discipline without flexibility
Second, we must use our strengths to bless others. The gifts and strengths we’ve been given are designed to be given away. God pours gifts into us; our job is to pour out what He has poured in. We must use these strengths for the benefit and blessing of others. Use them to bring glory to God at all times. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:7 (MSG), “Each person is given something to do that shows who God is.”
Let’s help others identify and develop their strengths by providing opportunities for them to utilize and grow them. We often focus on others’ weaknesses and become overbearing, negative, and draining. But when we help others identify their unique strengths and gifts, keep them in balance and use them for the benefit and blessing of others, we can help them experience a powerful and meaningful life. When we serve in this way, we use our strengths in the way God intended.
So remember: Beware, strong one. Unguarded strength is a double weakness. Know and guard your strengths at all times.
Dan Britton is the Chief Field Officer for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He has served FCA since 1990, and since 2013, has led FCA’s international efforts, traveling extensively around the world, as FCA works in 92 countries, training thousands of sports leaders, coaches and athletes.