Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Strong & Weak

     Sometimes I've used this blog to summarize, review or comment on a book - and I'd like to do that now, having just finished Andy Crouch's little book, Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk & True Flourishing.  Picking up on those perennial questions we all ask, What are we meant to be?  and Why are we so far from what we’re meant to be? he speaks of "the paradox of flourishing.  We are meant to flourish, not just to survive, but to thrive, not just to exist, but to explore and expand." 
     So what is the way be what we are meant to be?  "Flourishing comes from being both strong and weak.  Flourishing requires us to embrace both authority and vulnerability, both capacity and frailty, both life and death."  He goes on to demonstrate how, when we succumb to false choices and have one or the other, there is corruption and distortion.  Plus we can get tripped up by society's portrayal of a false kind of flourishing; "if you define flourishing carelessly, you'll miss the real thing."     Crouch handles all this well, although it's far from new.  The embrace of vulnerability has gotten a lot of press from rising stars like Brene Brown and Pete Scazzero, whose "Emotionally Healthy Spirituality" underscores this same balance, and the importance of going with where you are weak and limited.
     What is intriguing to me is the way Crouch applies all this to leadership, which "isn't about titles or power; leadership begins the moment you are concerned more about others’ flourishing than you are about your own.  Personal growth now serves a different end – not our own satisfaction but becoming the kind of people who could actually help others flourish." 
     Leaders need to embrace their vulnerability in order to be whole, much less effective - but wisely Crouch explains how "some of this vulnerability, for leaders, is invisible.  They bear vulnerability no one else can see."  I mean, I assume he assumes you show it to somebody, a confidant or spouse or mentor.  But this living into vulnerability without that dominating everybody else's agenda is pivotal, and not well-understood, it seems to me.  Crouch clarifies:  "The leader’s personal exposure to risk must often remain unspoken, unseen and indeed unimagined by others.  The leader must bear the shared vulnerabilities that the community does not currently have the authority to address.  The leader thus helps the community bear the community’s vulnerability  When leaders take risks, including the risks of personal disclosure, they do so for the sake of others’ authority and proper vulnerability."
     Crouch has a track record for producing significant stuff, especially Culture Making.  His newest is well worth pondering and talking about.  A nice book, a quick read, thoughtful and accessible.