Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Strength in Weakness

The last entry looked at the humanistic approach involved in Chaplaincy. I would like to expand this and speak on what it means to be weak and how this relates to becoming a human being. Becoming human is a title for many books written in the last century. Authors like Jean Vanier, John Behr and Olivier Clement have written on what it means to become a human. Becoming human, I can define from reading these books, is based on the idea of constantly seeking the good and beautiful in all that we do. In order to seek the good and beautiful we must however understand that, in order to find beauty and goodness, we must come from a place of weakness.

The paradox of weakness and strength can be difficult to understand. One can say, "How can I find beauty and goodness when I am lying in a hospital bed and I do not have control over the condition that has taken a hold of me?" People are infuriated by weakness that sometimes even the beautiful cry of a child can be a distraction. Weakness awakens hardness and anger in all of us. Equally dangerous, sometimes less obvious, weakness can lead people to a possessive love. However, in this mystery of weakness it can open our hearts to compassion; the place where we are concerned for the growth and well-being of the weak.

I see this on many levels in the hospital. The nurse, doctor, physiotherapist, occupational therapist and many more constantly seek to help others who are in a position of weakness trying to restore them to a position of strength. To deny weakness as a part of life is to deny death, because weakness speaks to our ultimate destruction of not being in control which is death itself. To be sick or dying is a stage of weakness and as that weakness becomes more apparent we begin to deny it all together.

If we deny our weakness and the reality of death by constantly seeking to be powerful and strong, then we deny part of our being creating a space of illusion, a bubble that becomes harder to break. To be a human being is to accept who we are, this mixture of strength and weakness. To be human is to be bonded to each other with our weakness and strengths, because we need each other. Lastly, weakness that is recognized, accepted and offered back is at the heart of belonging, which brings us together as a community of love.

I leave you with the beautiful words of Jean Vanier. Jean Vanier published a book called Becoming Human, inspiring me to write this post. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in wanting to understand and grow their knowledge of what it means to become a human being.

Weakness carries within it a secret power. The cry and the trust that flow from weakness can open up hearts. The one who is weaker can call forth powers of love in the one who is stronger. Do those who are stronger respond with love because in an unconscious way they identify with the one who is weak? Do they, in some way, know that one day they too will be weak and will cry out for help, recognition, and love?       

Jean Vanier, Becoming Human, 40. 

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