Here’s sharing this quote that resonates with me.
“I am strong because I am weak.
I am beautiful because I know my flaws.
I am a lover because I am a fighter.
I am fearless because I have been afraid.
I am wise because I have been foolish.
and I can laugh because I’ve known sadness.”
Yes, it is perhaps a paradoxical truth that in our very weakness is our strength, and in our very fears is our courage. Indeed, when we embrace our weaknesses and fears, we find liberation, and we find strength and courage in the midst of our brokenness and pain.
The above epiphany actually came to me when I was checking out the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) app on my iphone just now, and I saw the tagline “Strong is beautiful” and I felt something is amiss. After all, weakness is also beautiful in its own way. Maybe the concept of “strong is beautiful” is a result of the performance-based and competitive mindset of the world system, which invariably favours strength over weakness, just as it favours “success” over “failure”.
I decided to google the motto “Strong is beautiful” and I learnt that the WTA ad campaign has generated some controversy. On one hand, it is meant to be empowering to women which I am in agreement with. But on the other hand, it seems to subscribe to the overly competitve mindset in order to appeal to the patriarchal society.
This is unfortunate because this propaganda may indirectly brainwash people to think that only the strong and successful people are beautiful and worthy and others are seen as less worthy and beautiful. This kind of performance-based, competitive mindset has its roots in patriarchy, as noted by a Facebook friend recently.
Indeed, this article made a similar observation about the competitve nature of patriarchy, which may result in conflicts and wars if it is left unchecked:
“Patriarchy benefits men by giving us a class of people (women) to dominate and exploit. Patriarchy also oppresses men, by setting us at odds with each other and shrinking our life space.
The pressure to win starts early and never stops. Working-class gangs fight over turf; rich people’s sons are pushed to compete on the sports field. British military officers, it is said, learned to win on the playing fields of Eton.
The world situation is so much defined by patriarchy that what we see in the wars of today is competition between various patriarchal ruling classes and governments breaking into open conflict.”
(From “More Power Than We Want: Masculine Sexuality and Violence” by Bruce Kokopeli and George Lakey)
I think that for those of us who are conditioned by patriarchal upbringing and influence in such societies, we are often taught at an early age to suppress our emotions such as sadness and fears because these emotions are seen as “weak”. Weakness is often despised in patriarchal societies, and we often see the same phenomenon in male-dominated religions such as Abrahamic religions like mainstream or evangelical christianity. Hence, Jesus came along to challenge their competitive, violent mindset and their idea of “success” by saying that those who desire to be first, they shall be last of all and servant of all. (Mark 9:35)
35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
36 He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
In another place, Jesus said “The last will be first, and the first last” after telling the parable of the labourers working in the vineyard. (Matthew 20:1-16) So in the kingdom of God, what really matters is not accomplishments or material success, but rather knowing our true identity as little children of God who are innocent and beloved, who are not ashamed to be weak and honest with our feelings and emotions.
I also remember Paul preached the same gospel as Jesus when he wrote “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men… God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things that are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:25-28)
I think one reason why weakness is despised in the patriarchal system is because the system breeds the fear of being laughed at or booed at or being looked down upon by those who are deemed to be stronger or more successful. After all, those who are weaker in a competition, whether in competitive sports or in male-dominated workplaces etc, tend to lose to the stronger ones in some ways (according to their rules anyway, as no one loses in the kingdom of God), and are often looked down upon by the system. Hence, many who are highly educated and high achievers often strive to succeed and climb the rankings in the social and corporate ladders because deep down in their hearts, they are afraid to lose out and be seen as failures by their peers, and by their own critical spirit.
However, this mindset tends to result in self-loathing because those who subscribe to this competitive mindset inevitably judge their own self-worth based on their performance and accomplishments, and they tend to blame or hate themselves for not being good enough, or not being successful enough, especially when they compare themselves to their competitors, and are always grappling with insecurity as they are thinking how to out-do others in order to prove that they are worthy or successful in the eyes of the society. This mindset may also result in the competition-oriented people becoming cold, callous, inhumane and cruel towards others who are seen as less successful than themselves. This is especially so when they have been trying to suppress their own feelings of weakness and brokenness in themselves, and end up being insensitive towards others who happen to display the very same feelings of weakness and brokenness that they hate in themselves. It is like what Peter Rollins said about people who have not learnt to accept and embrace the otherness in themselves will not be able to accept and embrace the otherness they see in other people.
Like what this article also says:
“Much of men’s identities is focused around not being feminine, hence derogatory terms such as “pussy,” “crybaby,” and “acting like a girl (or woman).” We do what we can to avoid as coming across too feminine. Masculine identity is based on acting tough, having our shit together, being on purpose, working, and getting things done. Trace it even deeper, and we find the roots of homophobia: a mask for our insecurity and fear of being feminine (read: weak).”
(From “The hidden patriarchy of the men’s movement” by David Franklin)
I am beginning to realise more and more that men who often claim to want to be “manly” or “macho” are indirectly showing their own fears of being seen as weak or “sissy”, which is a derogatory term used in patriarchal societies to put down other men who are seen as weak and sensitive. It also betrays their underlying misogynism since they would also look down on women who are seen as weaker than them. It is no wonder there is much discrimination against LGBTQs and women, especially in the conservative christian circles. It is also no wonder that these same christian circles would also subscribe to the penal substitution theory of the cross and the literal hell doctrine because they hold on to the concept of a schizophrenic god who is supposedly loving yet condemning and legalistic. This concept of such a god, to me, is simply a reflection of the ego or false self.
- God is not really a king. (sarahoverthemoon.com)
- Are Buddhist Women Happy? Part II by Oxana Poberejnaia (feminismandreligion.com)
- Whatever happened to the gospel and the grace revolution? (themysteryofchrist.wordpress.com)
- Patriarchy, Imperfect Feminism and the Importance of Dialogue (beingfeministblog.wordpress.com)
- Why Poverty is Still A Problem (saunsea.wordpress.com)
- Smashing Patriarchy and Their Twisted Translations of the Bible (spiritualsoundingboard.com)
- Twisted bible verses found in the Patriarchal bible (cryingoutforjustice.wordpress.com)
- I am a feminist… (beneaththemassacre.wordpress.com)