Turn You Weakness Into Your Biggest Strength
Kim Peek was born with severe brain damage. His childhood doctor told Kim's father to leave him in an institution and forget about the boy. The doctor believed that Kim's severe developmental disabilities would not let him even walk, let alone to learn anything. Until this day, Kim struggles with ordinary motor skills and has difficulty walking. He is severely disabled, cannot button his shirt and tests well below average on a general IQ test. It seems like Kim is left weak with no hope.
But Kim's father disregarded the doctor's advice.
What Kim can do now is astonishing. He has read 12,000 books and remembers everything about them. Not only that, he reads two pages at once - his left eye reads the left page, and his right eye reads the right page. It takes him about 3 seconds to read through two pages…and he remembers everything written on them. Kim can recall facts and trivial matters from over 15 subject areas. If you tell him a date, Kim can tell you what day of the week it is. He also remembers every piece of music he has ever heard. There is a reason why they call him "Kimputer".
Kim’s biggest weakness, his mental disability, became his strongest characteristic, stronger than that of most people. He didn’t let his weakness take over him; he never gave up.
Last Parasha, Yosef HaSadik goes from being his father’s most beloved son to being abandoned by his own brothers because of one thing: his ability to interpret dreams. Had it not been for the incidents where he attempted to interpret his own dreams, his brothers would not have felt animosity towards him and he would have been able to live peacefully as home together with his family. But instead, he ends up in some dungeon in Egypt waiting for the day he will be set free.
In this Parasha, Parashat Mikets, we see Yosef HaSadik promoted from prisoner to prince. But what suddenly got him there? Yosef interprets one set of dreams about seven fat, healthy cows being consumed by seven thin cows, and a second set about seven healthy, full stalks of corn being consumed by seven unhealthy, thin stalks. Yosef explains to Pharaoh that the dreams mean that there will soon be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, and that Pharaoh needs to appoint a minister to take care of this. Of course, Pharaoh appoints Yosef to take care of the grain during the expected famine, and Yosef goes from being the second from the bottom among his brothers to second from top of an entire civilization. It was Yosef’s very ability to interpret dreams that rewarded him this pristine position- the same ability that got him into trouble and sent away in the first place.
The Torah HaKedosha is making a very powerful statement here.
Our weaknesses have the potential to become our biggest strength. If you want to know what the biggest strength you have is, look at what you consider to be your biggest weakness is; it lies beneath, it just needs to be unleashed. For instance, if I have a supposed weakness of forgetfulness, that is where I then tend to focus my most attention and try to develop; I finally end up with an astounding memory. If I know I have the predisposition to answer people impulsively, I develop exactly that trait into one of patience and consideration. Remember, Yosef HaSadik used his exact ‘weakness’ as his primary strength. Sure, interpreting dreams got him into prison but this exact ability also got him out of prison.
We must learn to embrace our weaknesses. When we deem something as a weakness, we don’t focus on developing it so we ignore it and it goes unnoticed. But we can use this exact power to develop ourselves further, we just never properly realized the need for it. Within our specific weakness is a reserve that is untapped. It is never look at or considered. We must realized that this very characteristic we consider weak is fresh, brand new, untouched—and can be turned into something more. The very fact that we have a weakness forces us to look inside ourselves. A weakness is an alarm, a bell, it gets your attention, it is clay in your hands. You can squeeze it out of frustration or you can sculpt it into a masterpiece. If we didn’t have any weaknesses, or if we didn’t acknowledge them and considered ourselves just to have strengths, then we coast through life and remain stagnant, we don’t grow.
Once we can acknowledge what our weakness is, we can begin the process. Anytime we are faced with an experience depending on that weakness of ours, view it as an opportunity for GROWTH, not as an obstacle! If you are open to change, use every chance you get to allow you to hone this character and sharpen it. If you let it go and brush it off as a small imperfection, you are missing out on your greatest potential.
Weaknesses give us the momentum to move forward. Since we find ourselves on one extreme (‘weakness’), we are brought to a point where we must put ourselves on the other extreme (strength) to counter it. The farther on one extreme of the spectrum, the more potential there is to flip it to the other end.
I was once washing cherry tomatoes. They were all average in their cleanliness- they looked pretty clean to me, so I gave them a general rinse and scrub and set them out to eat. As I was arranging these cute little tomatoes, one fell to the floor before I was able to catch it. I quickly picked up the tomato and realized it was very dirty, so I sprayed it with vegetable wash and began to scrub frantically for a few minutes until I was positive it was completely clean. In fact, it was cleaner than any other tomato on the plate.
Okay, other than getting you hungry, what is my point here? When we realize something has a deficit, we work harder to fix it and emerge with something even greater than when we started. Yeah, that last tomato had a fall and got the dirtiest, but it also ended up becoming the most clean out of the entire bunch. When we realize we may have a deficit, we work harder to compensate for it and we end up with a strength we never had to begin with.
Be’ezrat HaShem, may we all be given the strength to develop our strengths and embrace what we consider weaknesses with the understanding that beneath them lays tremendous power for growth.
Wishing everyone a Shabbat Shalom uMevorakh!