Jean Vanier on Weakness

Becoming Human by Jean Vanier, Anashi Press Ltd: Toronto, ON 1998.

The following points about weakness are made in Vanier’s Becoming Human book:

1: Weakness is at the heart of each one of us.

“Our lives are a mystery of growth from weakness to weakness, from the weakness of the little baby to the weakness of the aged. Throughout our lives, we are prone to fatigue, sickness, and accidents. Weakness is at the heart of each one of us” (39).

Do you reject weakness in your life? Do you deny the fundamental weakness of death through escape mechanisms like being busy? Vanier notes how if we reject weakness, our hearts are torn by chaos, anger, and confusion. If we accept weakness, our hearts can find compassion, peace, and joy.

2: To be human is to accept our weakness.

“To be human is to accept who we are, this mixture of strength and weakness. To be human is to accept and love others just as they are. To be human is to be bonded together, each with our weaknesses and strengths because we need each other” (40).

Vanier speaks about weakness carrying a “secret power” (40) to call forth powers of love in those who are stronger.

How do you view your own weakness?

Reflect on this passage from St. Paul:

Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 9 but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. ~ 2 Cor 12:8–10

3: Weakness is at the heart of belonging.

“Weakness, recognized, accepted, and offered, is at the heart of belonging, so it is at the heart of communion with another” (40).

Once we realize that we all belong to a weak and broken humanity, we can work together, sharing the burden of each other’s weaknesses. How do you treat others in their weakness?


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