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Random Thoughts Self Musings

Strengths & Weaknesses

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Even the greatest among us have shortcomings, and those limited in their capacities have strengths. There’s no point in comparing your shortcomings with the virtues of others. Those others might believe they could never match you in certain ways.

The Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi’s “Autumn Floods” says: The one-footed yak wished it were a millipede because a millipede can walk. The millipede wished it were a snake because a snake can slither very fast. The snake wished it were the wind because the wind can move even faster. The wind wished it were as swift as eyesight. Eyesight, however, wished it were the mind, since the mind can move in less than an instant.

The mind is the swiftest of all things.

The point is that, when comparing yourself with others, since there’s always someone better than you at something, don’t be overly inflated, and since even the greatest have weaknesses, don’t be overly self-critical. As it is said, “A foot has its shortness; an inch has its length.”

A fable illustrates this.

Once, a little mouse wanted dearly to be strong and brave. Looking up at the sky one day, the mouse was struck by its vastness and thought that the sky must be the strongest thing that there was. It called out, “Sky, you must not be afraid of anything. I’m so very small. Could you help me be strong and brave?” The sky replied, “I am afraid of some things. I’m afraid of dark clouds. When they cover me up, I can’t see anything.” So the little mouse concluded that dark clouds were even stronger than the sky. It found a dark cloud and said to it, “Cloud, you can cover the sky and block out the sun. You must be the strongest thing in the world. You must not be afraid of anything. I’m so very small. Could you help me be strong and brave?” The dark cloud said, “I am afraid of strong winds. I work hard to cover the sky, but when the wind comes, I’m blown away.” So the little mouse went to the wind with the same question. The wind answered, “I am afraid of walls. I can’t go through them, so walls are stronger than me.”So then, of course, the little mouse went to see a wall and asked, “Wall, you can stop the wind. Are you the strongest thing in the world?” The wall’s answer stunned him: “Not at all. What I’m most afraid of are mice! They can make holes in me, and enough of those can make me collapse.”The little mouse rolled over in astonishment. “I’ve looked everywhere, searching the world for the strongest thing, but it turns out that actually it is me!”

It is a mistake to look at the strengths of others and conclude that we’re worthless. Often we don’t realize how powerful we are.