Finding Strength through Admitting Weakness

Admitting fault does not make you a weaker person. In fact, you cannot become stronger until you recognize and address your weaknesses.

Confession and altar calls are some of the ways that traditional Christian churches accomplish this.

Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step group use the steps for the same purpose. Particularly Step Four and Step Ten address this.

Step Four: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Step Ten: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

You may wonder why the need to continue taking inventories as described in Step Ten if Step Four was done properly. Page 88 of The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous explains this. It tells us that “a need to re-inventory does not mean that we failed to do step four properly. It simply shows that we have grown in self-awareness and have become ready to face and resolves aspects of our lives that we were not capable of dealing with the first time around.”

I think of this as peeling away the layers. It took most of us many years to get where we are, and we have picked up many layers in those years. We cannot expect to remove all of the years in one go-around. It reminds me of the antique desk in my office where I sit typing this.

My desk had belonged to my ex-husband. It is one of the things that he didn’t take when he left. It was old, massive, plain and covered with a thick coat of old black paint. It was quite ugly and I was thinking of getting rid of it in favor of something more attractive.

One day I noticed that a fairly large section of paint had chipped off the corner, and there seemed to be a very nice pattern to the grain that I could now see. I was alone and my time outside work was my own, so I decided to strip it and see what was underneath the paint.

I started on the desktop so that I could see the grain. The more I removed, the more beautiful the grain that I found. I decided to keep it, strip it fully, and stain it rather than re-painting. As I moved on to the sides, I began working on the beadwork on the side. When painted, it appeared to be a plain strip of beading. But as I removed the paint, I found a beautiful rope pattern that was hidden under the paint.

Finally I got to the legs. I could tell that they were carved, but the carving appeared to be slight grooves. As I worked, I found amazingly deep grooves so deep in fact that I had some trouble getting down into the carved areas to get off all the finish.

When I was done, I no longer wanted to get rid of the desk. It was an intricate thing of beauty. I stained it and put a clear finish to protect the wood, and have used it ever since.

I think that admitting our faults is like the stripping of my desk. You must remove the old and sometimes ugly paint in order to reveal the possibility of something worthwhile under the layers of old paint. The successive inventories are like my work on the sides and the legs; over time, they reveal the intricacies and details that make up something beautiful and worthwhile.

Personally, admitting that I’m less than perfect scares me. But I can’t wait to see what beauty hides beneath all my layers of paint. I think that I’ll give it a try.