“Every strength taken to the extreme becomes a weakness”
I’ve been reading a lot on John Stuart Mill lately, who was a philosopher back in the 19th century. According to numerous biographies and texts written about him, he set a goal, early on in his childhood, to “be a reformer of the world.” However admirable the task, this mission ended up leading to a bout of serious depression for Mill. This is because, in order for him to become a “reformer of the world,” he decided to endlessly engross himself in studying facts on politics and economics.
He was educated exclusively by his father, who was a strict disciplinarian, and at the age of three was taught the Greek alphabet and long lists of Greek words with their English equivalents. By his eighth year he had read Aesop’s Fables, Xenophon’s Anabasis, and the whole of Herodotus to name a few. By the age of 20, he underwent the serious period of depression, which was a direct result, no doubt, of this strenuous training and his comparative lack of friendships. Mill’s single-minded outlook on reforming the world ultimately left him with no other outlets.
Luckily, through this period of depression, he discovered the world of art, specifically poetry, which provided him additional passions outside the world of education. It was even thought that this discovery ‘saved him’ from insanity…
By reading these passages on John Stuart Mill, I realized that even though Mill had a great mental gift, it was not enough for him to only nurture one strength. In fact, this idealization of reformation eventually became his weakness. We must understand that, surely, a person has not been placed on this earth to only suffice one need. It is the sum of our parts, not the individual pieces, that make us whole. Through this research, I’ve learned that by managing our strengths… by finding those additional passions… we allow ourselves to give our all, our whole self, to the legacy that we leave behind.
*What do you think? How are you managing your strengths? Is there any area in your life where you want to branch out?
“By nature we have no defect that could not become a strength, no strength that could not become a defect.” Goethe
*For the month of October, I’m participating in a 31 Days series with eight other bloggers and numerous other writers. I will be writing about 31 Days of Strength — the strength that comes from a variety of different sources including our heart, soul, mind, the words that we speak, the control over our thoughts & actions and the gifts that we provide to others. To see the entire series, please view my 31 Days page.