Human beings are a contradiction of strength and vulnerability. The human mind, body and spirit can endure tremendous suffering through trauma, illness and pain and survive or even thrive. We have an incredible ability to heal. Could you imagine if our bodies accumulated every cut, bruise or illness that we experienced throughout our lifetime without the ability to heal? Most of us would hardly survive childhood!
Just as incredible as our resilience is our vulnerability. We can barely function without frequent infusions of water and food. And we must sleep a full third of our lives. We live every day one tragic moment away from drawing our last breath. A severe blow to the head, a significant puncture to our skin, or an internal malfunction of our complex organs could take our lives in a split second. It is a wonder with the daily risks we encounter that most of us survive to old age.
Our minds and our spirits are as vulnerable as our bodies. Mental and spiritual injury and disease can hamper our lives, at least as significantly as physical ailments. Mental and physical pain from childhood can simmer just below the surface of our consciousness, impacting virtually every aspect of our lives. Mental and spiritual pathology not only occurs in childhood, but throughout our lives.
Often we heal, and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes the injury, the illness or the trauma is too great and we cannot recover. We succumb to our ailments, carrying in our bodies chronic or terminal diseases, in our minds hopelessness, and in our spirits apathy. Sometimes our maladies can last a lifetime, and sometimes they even pass from one generation to the next.
I believe the same contradictions of strength and vulnerability that exists with each of us also exists between us in our interpersonal and organizational behavior. There is a natural tendency toward life and healing. And there are injuries and illness that can stifle this tendency. And, we have choices on what to focus on and what to move to the background. What is most prominent in our lives individually and corporately is dependent on where we focus.
We have a choice to focus our energy and attention on human vulnerability or human strength. Many dynamics that play out in organizations focus on human vulnerability and neglect human strength. In unhealthy organizations we are engaged in battle, trying to expose and exploit each others’ weaknesses. Healthy organizations, by contrast, promote compassion and accommodation for vulnerabilities, but do not focus on them. They focus energy and attention on human strength, creativity, resilience and hope.
Let us focus our futures individually, organizationally, politically, socially and globally on finding the strength to heal ourselves and one another; the creativity to undo systemic harm and redo systems of justice and inclusion; the resilience to meet the challenges that confront us, in the hope that the human dance of strength and vulnerability can continue long after our lives in this beautiful world have been fully lived.