I was scrolling through some old posts on Facebook recently. No nostalgia involved initially. Just an attempt to clear the clutter in my digital space (I high recommend it), and perhaps delete embarrassing moments of expressed youthfulness. I saw a few gems that made me cringe. I screenshot and saved a few others. I guess at eighteen and nineteen and twenty years old, everyone thinks they are deep. Well, maybe not everyone.
But I’ve always been an expressive person, with a finesse for words above all. And somewhere between juvenile rants about inconsequential things, and humorous quips about giving up human rights and liberties for finance classes, I came across these words from 2009, “You need not find a remedy for everything that makes you weak.”
I wondered what was going on with me at the time. I wondered briefly what prompted those words. Sometimes it seems like college was such a blur. Sure, I remember the really important things, some of them still bring happiness. While others I consider more somberly, and try not to fixate on regret. I have learned that regrets can cripple you; that it is best to take your would-be regrets as lessons.
But still, most of college did not consist of extremely significant things. I’m sure at the time, I thought it did. And maybe that’s a good thing. But maybe it’s a good thing too that I can look back on it and realize the (in)significance of those situations and moments. But these words I found about remedies and weakness struck me as important. Apparently I knew something then that I have forgotten since. Or perhaps I was more confident in my uncertainty in those years than I am now. The innocence and naïveté of those days seem like an asset; those days that feel like just a stone’s throw away in the fictional space we call the past. And yet I reminisce on it sometimes as if they were all only dreams.
I am not quite certain when we learn that the only things we can do with our weaknesses are to hide them or strengthen them. But somewhere along the way, that is what we learn. Because weakness automatically translates to feelings of negativity and of pain. Weakness for us, means suffering. And all suffering, we insist, is bad. And we would rather ignore our pain. We become accustomed to ignoring our pain; filtering out our imperfections, and only sharing our pleasures. We become addicted to the side of us that we want to see. We ignore our ugly sides; we ignore the sides that reveal us as creatures who suffer deeply; weak, and at times, pathetic.
And maybe we detest the weaknesses and pains and displays of being in need, whatever kind of neediness we see in those around us, because we detest it in ourselves. Many of us know that we are imperfect. We know that we are fighting hard battles every day, and we know that others are too. And yet we are not more kind, more humble, more expressive of being in need, often of intangible things. We seek strength to cover ourselves up. And in so doing, we are not fully ourselves; we haven’t even given ourselves the chance to know what that looks like.
To think that all of this stems from a lack of compassion may indeed be a bit of an overstatement, or perhaps it is also naïve. But if you can look in the mirror and admit when you are weak; if you can confirm to your soul through tears and sighs and gasps that you are in pain and that you suffer, maybe not all the time, but some of the time, then maybe your weaknesses can fully become a part of you. Not all of you, but the part of you they were always meant to be – the things that make you compassionate to yourself and compassionate to your neighbour. The things that allow you to see that life’s challenges are not always working against you, but rather sometimes, they are working for you.
Perhaps that’s why you need not find a remedy for everything that makes you weak – because the things that make you weak today, prepare you for your life tomorrow. Of course you’ll always win some and lose some. That’s a given. But either way, you would have learned how to live with yourself – with your pleasures and your pains. And you would have learned how to live rightly.