When does strength become weakness?

Every adversity brings with it the seed of an equivalent advantage.”—Napoleon Hill.

If ever there was a philosophical position that contains the seeds of BOTH supreme faith and extreme cruelty, this is the one.

Applied to yourself, with loving firmness, it can force you to look beyond current circumstances to future benefits, or even force you into spiritual realms if current life situations are insoluble.   But…and this is important, be VERY careful when applying this to others.

I believe in this dictate, but sometimes the answer “what benefit is there in this disease/disaster/loss” has nothing to do with the Earthly realm, or the consensual dream of our reality.  People who are balanced enough to fight when victory can be won, and make peace with their lives when it cannot are  the very best and strongest human beings in this world.

But those who have really reached that place understand how rarefied that is, and don’t expect others to automatically reach that special awareness.  They KNOW most people find it difficult or nearly impossible, and radiate compassion for those who suffer.  Even if they might think “if only you could let go of ego now…” they won’t say such a thing if the person is not ready to hear it.

On the other hand…those who have NOT reached that place, but pretend to have done so, can piously step over homeless people bleeding on the sidewalk, saying that they are suffering for their own good.  If their spiritual roots are shallow, they can speak of rape, child abuse, torture and grinding poverty as choices the individual made in this life or another, while eating their steak and drinking champagne.

And this is an opportunity to learn: don’t let your own strength become a weakness.  Don’t let the fact that you close your mind to your own doubts and fears cause you to look down on those who cannot. Don’t let your own conviction that you can control your fate become contempt for those who cannot rise up. 

There is a business coach I study who has closed his mind to any doubts. Perhaps as a result of this, he often speaks of how “superior” you will be once you apply his methods, how much “better” you will be compared to the “common man.”

Tricky. Tricky.  To consider that you are better than you used to be?   Valid and positive.  Better than others?  Ummm…at what?  In what way?   Is there a difference between saying “I’m a better runner” and “I ran a better race that day”? Or that “I’m a better runner” doesn’t mean that you’re a better person?

One approach used to try to build a wall between burning focus and self confidence and egotism is to believe that every human being has things to teach you. That everyone is better than you at something valuable.  That you cannot judge another human being until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.

How do you BOTH believe you are worthy and capable of high achievement AND that those who have not are no less than you?  My personal approach is to grasp that accomplishment is a continuum. There are ALWAYS people better than me at any given thing.  I am ALWAYS better than some others at any given thing. And there are infinite things to be good at in life, and everyone has a different set of values, as well as different starting conditions, such that it is impossible to judge others without distracting myself from my only real task: being the best, purest, most honest Steven Barnes I can be.  Every second I notice if others are ahead or behind me, I’m taking my attention off “the job.”   

There is real power in finding this balance.  Being loving but merciless with yourself.  And loving with others, never judging them for not “keeping up with you.” Or jealous when they are ahead of you.  Tough.

But genuinely worth the effort.




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