Dealing With Weak People
- May 16, 2018
- Esther Followwill-Johnson
Human weaknesses level the playing field, because we all have them. No matter how adept or masterful we may be at one thing, in another skill or virtue we would be found utterly bankrupt. Though someone may work very hard to conceal it from you, that is just further evidence of the weakness’ existence. (This is a refreshing thought when you meet someone who seems to have life perfectly together! They don’t.)
Recently weaknesses have become actually precious in my mind. In the most kind and gracious of people, they are generally shoved down and rarely seen or experienced. More apparent and polarizing are weaknesses in the immature and selfish… but each is precious all the same.
Witnessing a weakness is an exposed wound. A vulnerability. Whoever recognizes it or experiences it around someone has been given a gift; they’ve been taken in for a moment to the internal. Most people instinctively try to keep their weaknesses a secret, therefore the exposure of them is an instant opportunity.
It’s an opportunity to see the person in a new light, remembering the common humanity we all possess. It’s the opportunity to learn about them more deeply. Then there’s usually another chance to be involved somehow: to cover their shame, listen to their heart, or show them patience and grace if it was a particularly ugly incident.
Bearing another person’s daily struggle or weakness can be burdensome, especially if it is a enduring pattern. True. But it is also profound privilege, and we would do well to see it that way.
The summer after college, I lived with two of my best friends on Catalina Island. One afternoon, in a rush to make my double-day shift I said something snappy and impatient to my roommate. (Looking back on my imperfections make me cringe, and I bet you feel the same way!) She later told me she took that moment as an indication at how close we had grown over the years. That my poor behavior actually reflected that there was a kind of safety and trust between us, and that we’d become more like sisters in a family.
She was right. But while that closeness should never be taken advantage of, I was touched by her view of my moment of weakness. To take something negative and regard it in a positive light, to see me in some beautiful way, and seek to love and accept me THROUGH it, was really powerful. I’ve never forgotten that response, and 7 years later she’s still one of my best friends.
This little dash between two dates that we call “life” is meaningful only if we share it. Sharing life means rubbing shoulders with people who are profoundly and brilliantly imperfect… so there are bound to be many moments of tension, agitation and impatience with each other. That’s the design.
But engaging and accepting people in their weakness is the POWER of love expressed. It reminds us how susceptible we all are to missing the mark… that we cannot save ourselves and we were never intended to. Rather, what we can and should do is not punish or retaliate, but to love people anyway.
My friend Alex says it best: “There is something wonderful about showing grace to someone over a long period of time.” Don’t burn out on people; go the distance with them, especially when they are weakest.