When I played basketball, many, many decades ago, there were certain key strengths that I naturally had. Dribbling””easy; lockdown defense””no problem; shooting three pointers””good all day, but shooting from the right side? Big problem!
It was not until I got to a point that I recognized and understood where my strengths were, as well as my weaknesses, that I could work toward being better. So every day I focussed on making the not-so-good parts of my game a little better. With a lot of work, in the hot summer sun, alone, practicing, visualizing, and preparing, some of those weak areas faded away.
Obviously, this story does not end in the NBA, or even some major college. But learning to work out my weaknesses in sports through determination and commitment to improvement became a tutor for marriage.
As a husband and dad there are some things that I might be considered pretty good at. But promise me you won’t tell my wife I said this, there are also some things that I’m definitely not that good at, some areas that I need to improve in. Yet similar to my days playing basketball, I find that when I am transparent about my areas of growth and stay in my areas of strength, I become the team player and team leader that my team needs.
Get Out of the Way
Where trouble comes in is when I try to deny my weaknesses and/or I fail to understand my strengths. For example, I am a natural born planner and goal setter. I love thinking about the big picture. In my family, I design the plans, I chart the course, 6 months, 1 year, 5 years at a time. But ask me about a bill due next week and I have to defer to my wife. She is the down in the weeds, think-for-today type of person.
For the first few years of my marriage I tried to force myself to be the kind of thinker that my wife was naturally. Why? Because I thought that is what men do, they handle every aspect of the bills, right? But when I tried to force fit into my wife’s strengths we both ended up tired, frustrated and broke. It just isn’t my strength. So when I looked at how I was wired and realized my points of strength, I got out of the daily sending out or setting up the bills to be paid. Moving out of my weakness and my wife’s strength gave me time to move more into a planning role, so that we could become a well functioning team that could maximize both of our strengths.
Get in the Right Seat
Here is another example. When my wife and I moved to D.C., I had a pretty good understanding of how to get around the city. I had spent almost every summer of my childhood there. My wife had never been there before. However, my car back then was a 10-year-old, big Buick Skylark with no A/C and a temperamental radio. So we always drove her car and I sat in the passenger seat, giving her directions. Talk about tension. Once we found ourselves going down a one-way street it dawned on me that I needed to get a better car, get out of the passenger seat and get to where I could operate from my strength. As long as I was a passenger and my wife the driver of her car, my strength (knowledge of the city) was hindered and we were both frustrated. I am not talking about control or who is in charge. Rather the emphasis is on getting to and being consistently in place and useable in our family.
Leading From Strength
As men, our examples and models of being fathers, husbands and leaders can range from the nonexistent father to a great father. Yet regardless of what was modeled in front of our own eyes, we gain the respect of our wives when we apply our strength with wisdom. So here are a few things I consider as I grow-up through the on-going process of leading from and staying in my strength.
- Be transparent. Am I good at it or can I become good enough at “it.”
- Confess weaknesses. I don’t know how to fix the dryer.
- Impact. Does how I exercise my strengths, leave my wife weak, or make her stronger?
- Stay humble. Sometimes it is better for me to lead from the passenger seat, and I am cool with that.
Lord knows I don’t have all the answers. Fourteen years in, and I am still moving toward learning how I bless my family through my areas of strength. How about you, BMWK men, how do your strengths strengthen your family?
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