Trevor Hudson writes that there is one subject that we tend to avoid. Strangely he says it is not the subject of sex, or money or politics or death, or even religion. Rather it is the topic of our weaknesses. We are seldom prepared to discuss this aspect of our lives honestly he says, not even with out loved ones or close friends.
He goes on to say that there are a number of reasons for this. Firstly society tends to think negatively of people we consider to be weak willed, weak kneed or weak minded. Society regards them as the losers, the ones who are usually defeated, the unfortunates who lack what it takes to succeed, and we do not want to be thought of in that way.
Another reason is that from an early age we are taught we have to be strong, especially for those who are males. He says the message is clear: The successful are those who are in control, who have it all together. Even if we are not on top of things it becomes important to pretend that we are. And so we are continually trying to look stronger or smarter or more successful than we really are. We cannot mention our weaknesses too loudly.
A third reason that we don’t talk about our weaknesses, is quite simply that often we are quite blind to our own weaknesses. We see the weaknesses in others quickly and clearly but we don’t always notice them in ourselves, or we deny them or try to rationalise them away. Trevor Hudson says that the truth is that we have a remarkable capacity for self delusion and denial. He says when we are confronted about our failures we say something like ‘I don’t know what came over me. I just wasn’t myself.’ in order to distance ourselves from whatever it was. Quite frankly he says, what comes over us are our weaknesses, whatever they may be.
And if one could go back in time to our more primitive ancestors living in caves and fighting sabre toothed tigers and defending themselves against other marauding tribes, one of the root causes for not admitting our weaknesses is pure survival. The fear is that if we admit to our weaknesses we fear that might not survive, that someone will take advantage of us and we might be in some way annihilated.
But the truth is that sometimes our attempts to deny our weaknesses to ourselves and others in order to look strong begins to backfire on us. There comes a point when living in denial of our weaknesses becomes counterproductive as those covered up weaknesses begin to undermine our wellbeing and our life shared with others.
Trevor Hudson writes that the good news is that we can live beyond our weaknesses, But before we can begin to experience this, there is one pre-condition: We first have to admit our weaknesses. And this is the wisdom of the first Step in the 12 step Program.
Step 1. We admitted we were powerless over some area of our lives. That our lives had become unmanageable.
It is the humble admission of having a weakness.
Trevor Hudson says it is Wisdom that comes straight from the pages of the Bible and can be summarised like this: The first Step towards change involves a courageous admission of our weaknesses. And when we are unable to take this first step we cut ourselves off from experiencing the power to change from the inside. How can you change if you deny that there is a problem or a need to change.
What are the weaknesses that we struggle with that can undermine our lives and make our lives feel unmanageable:
Firstly, there is the weakness of the will. Having the sense of wanting to do something, but somehow not being able to muster up the will-power to actually do it.
Secondly there is the weakness of our addictive or compulsive behaviour. This is behaviour that can often provide short-term pleasure or comfort but that undermines our long term well being and can sabotage our ability to achieve long term goals and happiness.
Thirdly there is the weakness of habitual wrong-doing. Deep down says Trevor we all know the difference between right and wrong, and between that which leads to wholeness and that which doesn’t, but often our habitual energies lead us away from the good, and habits can be very hard to change.
Fourthly, there is the weakness of our negative thoughts and feelings, perhaps a continual sense of worry, an overwhelming anxiety, a deep feeling of worthlessness or fear or anger and aggression. And many of these feelings are connected with often forgotten traumas big and small from our childhood. Trevor Hudson says that one of the most damaging of all our feelings is resentment and the sense that we are owed something.
The Apostle Paul who on the road to Damascus came to see more clearly his own weaknesses expresses some of these dimensions of our human weaknesses when he writes of himself in the book of Romans: I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…. I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
What happens when we fail to admit our weaknesses?
On the one hand, Trevor Hudson says we find ourselves living a lie. We hide behind masks of competence and self-sufficiency and we pretend we are ok. We become actors in the drama of our lives playing roles that are far removed from who we really are on the inside. And in consequence people around us begin to feel like we have put up a barrier so that others can’t reach us or get close to us. And this in turn leads us to feeling isolated from any real and meaningful openness and contact with people. Always pretending we have it together makes for very lonely living.
Secondly, as already suggested, not admitting our weaknesses can make them even more destructive, especially when they become hidden secrets. Those in the recovery movement remind us that we are as sick as our secrets and so unacknowledged weaknesses have a scary way of gradually taking over our lives, robbing us of our joy, our freedom and our peace of mind.
And so the 12 step program reminds us that admitting the reality of our weaknesses is the first and most important step on the journey towards change. Without it there can be little or no progress.
Admitting our weaknesses paradoxically takes enormous courage, honesty, humility and strength. Admitting our weaknesses is also not a once off event. We may be aware of one weakness that we are willing to admit today, but in a few years time we may slowly become aware of other weaknesses that we have not yet seen and not yet been able to acknowledge.
Trevor Hudson says that if we wish to overcome our weaknesses, or even just to learn to live in a more wholesome and balanced way with our weaknesses then naming our weakness is a powerful act, and in doing so he suggests trying to be as specific as we can be. Naming our weaknesses brings our hidden struggles our into the open and can begin to connect us with others who struggle in a similar way. Writing them in a diary or a journal and getting them onto paper can help us to see them more clearly.
And when we do so, Trevor Hudson says that we begin to discover one of the greatest secrets of the spiritual journey – that in our weakness often lies our greatest strength. Because in admitting our weaknesses it can open us to finding help, help from others and most especially it can open us up to Divine Resources. It can open us up to a power greater than our small ego driven selves and open us to Divine Resources that God has placed deep within us.
This was the Apostle Paul’s discovery, who Trevor Hudson describes as a recovering sinner. Paul writes in 2 Cor 12:10 “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness… for when I am weak, then I am strong”.
If admitting your weakness might be too difficult, an easier place to start might simply be admitting you need a change. Admitting that in some area of your life things are not as you would want them to be. “I need to change such and such, because currently what I am doing is no longer working for me”.
What area of your life is no longer working for you…? What area of your life is beginning to undermine your well-being? Can you name it? Can you admit that it is not working?
Change cannot happen until we admit that something needs to change… and one of the quickest ways is to name exactly what it is that needs changing.
I close with song lyrics from a contemporary Australian singer called Sia -
World, I want to leave you better
I want my life to matter
I am afraid I have no purpose here
I watch the news on TV
Abandon myself daily
I am afraid to let you see the real me
Rain, it falls, rain, it falls
Pouring on me
And the rain, it falls, rain, it falls
Sowing the seeds of love and hope, love and hope
We don't have to stay, stuck in the weeds
Have I the courage to change?
Have I the courage to change?
Have I the courage to change today? (Oh)