Wellness Pearls

10 November 2016

Over-used Strengths

Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.
George Washington

A client recently experienced a potent solution to a problem that had plagued her for years. Similar to many colleagues I know, she cares deeply about people and is a highly competent nurse practitioner.   When her elderly father fell ill, she deployed all her assets to get the best possible care for him.  Enter the brother, who was the designated legal/medical decision maker.   The sibling relationship turned toxic; her every action was viewed with suspicion. Her brother became very secretive, hiding assets, making significant one-way decisions, such as selling the father’s house without telling other family members. He stopped showing even the most basic kindness to her in the midst of this tumultuous time for their family.

She spent months trying every skill she had in her emotional arsenal to express kindness and generosity to her brother to get the best health care for their father.  Nothing she did worked; she was undermined at every turn.  She found herself having difficulty sleeping, worrying about her father and the bewildering, indifference of her brother.  She was running herself into the ground, and caring for her father at the expense of herself.

An epiphany came to her when she went to the nursing home to take her father out for a walk. She learned her brother had banned all outings. In that moment, she was struck with a kind of knowing she had never felt before: there was nothing she could do to change the situation. No amount of love, money or kindness could alter the circumstances between her and her brother.  She realized that her kindness had become her weakness. It sent the message she was a pushover and her brother was taking full advantage. She took a giant step away from it and stopped showing kindness. Instead, she switched to neutral.  She has a mighty ability to be kind, and once she saw that more was not better, she was able to dial back on that asset and tap into her many other strengths.

A strength, when overused, must be kept in check. Or humility can become self-diminishment. Confidence can become hubris. Curiosity can become nosiness. We can adjust our strengths by using our own volume control. Turn down the curiosity at a funeral, turn it up when a friend has good news. Overusing our strengths can compromise our performance, derail a career, and impact our well-being. It is emancipation to show our strengths in different shades.

Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.
Jean-Paul Sarte



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2 Responses

    1. Eileen O'Grady
      Eileen O'Grady

      Thank you Dr. Gardener. I know I get into trouble when my strength of curiosity gets me.. going down a rabbit hole. I hope you are well and all is well in Hawaii. Let it shine, Eileen

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