It is often easier for me to tell you what I can’t do rather than what I can do.
I’m often more aware of what I lack than what I have. I am often more likely to see someone’s disability, rather than their ability. This way of approaching life is often called Deficit Thinking. We find what’s missing, lacking or weak and seek to address it.
Well-meaning friends will point out our weaknesses and suggest we do something to improve ourselves. The psychologist and other helpers get called in. We get labelled by our need or disability.
The opposite way of seeing the world is through strengths. This approach believes that every individual, family, group, and community has strengths and we achieve more if we focus on these strengths rather than on weaknesses, that is, we concentrate on what we can do and how this can be enhanced.
This approach believes that people are the experts on their own situation and that helping people consists of working “with” them not “for” them, clarifying issues, identifying strengths and supporting people to develop strategies. The strengths based approach asks these sort of questions: What am I good at? What abilities do I have? Can I extend or build on these? Are there others in the family, group or community with complementary skills and with whom I can collaborate? Can we build a team that is stronger than the sum of its parts?
This approach believes that all people have the ability to learn, grow and change.
Ian Thorpe won five Olympic Gold Medals, which was the greatest total of any Australian. He also won three Silvers and one Bronze; all in swimming, in fact, all in freestyle swimming over distances of 100, 200 and 400 metres. No-one suggested that he was no good because he wasn’t strong at backstroke or butterfly.
No-one suggested that he was weak at track events and should stop swimming and turn his attention to these obvious weaknesses. No-one suggested he take up football or tennis.
Ian Thorpe worked on his strengths, built on what he was good at, what he was gifted in. There were other people who were gifted in other strokes, events and sports. Together they were a team.
The apostle Paul thought that a good church community was like a human body, made up of many members and each with different gifts. “The body does not consist of one member but of many”, he said. “If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? “
We owe it to ourselves and those we love to find our gifts and grow them.
This is the Gospel and it’s good news.